Date: 09-Feb-09Country: MEXICOAuthor: Mica Rosenberg MEXICO CITY – From the live snakes that smugglers stuff with packets of cocaine to the white tigers drug lords keep as exotic pets, rare animals are being increasingly sucked into Mexico’s deadly narcotics trade. Drug gang leaders like to show off rarities like sea turtle skin boots and build ostentatious private zoos at their mansions. They also reap additional profits by sharing routes with animal traffickers who cram humming birds into cigarette packs and baby monkeys into car air conditioning ducts to be sold to underground pet traders in the United States. Mexico’s raging drug war killed some 5,700 people last year and some cartel leaders have even been rumored to throw rivals to their big cats as food. The global illegal trade in live species and animal parts — used for luxury accessories, Asian medicine or folk remedies like aphrodisiacs — is estimated to be worth up to $20 billion a year, Interpol has said. The big profits available from selling wildlife on the black market — where a certain type of endangered South American macaw can fetch $90,000 and a predatory python around $30,000 — are added incentive to Mexican gangs moving other contraband. “You can sometimes make as much profit, if not more, than drug smuggling with less consequences, because law enforcement is not paying attention and if you are caught the penalty is just a slap on the wrist,” said Crawford Allan, the North American head of wildlife trade watchdog group Traffic. TURTLE SKIN AND COCAINE China and the United States are the largest markets for banned pets and...
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