3/14/2017 National Geographic
Traffickers from Latin America are desperate to get their product into the United States—so desperate they’ll risk the dangers of swimming across the Rio Grande with their contraband. But it’s not meth and it’s not cocaine. In one case, according to a special agent, it was about 25 parrots destined to be sold as pets. Smugglers used tire inner tubes to keep the box of birds afloat during the river crossing.
The southern border of the U.S. is a hot zone for wildlife smuggling, and while President Trump has vowed to stop illegal immigration from Mexico, it’s unclear what he intends to do to thwart the flow of illicit wildlife.
Of the nearly 50,000 illegal shipments of wildlife and wildlife products seized at ports of entry from 2005 through 2014, more than a quarter originated in Latin America, according to a 2016 fact sheet from Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation organization. This included nearly 55,000 live animals and three million pounds of wildlife products.