Is The World Cup Fueling An Illegal Wildlife Trade?
Soccer isn't the only attraction at this year's World Cup. In Manaus, one of Brazil's twelve host cities for the month-long international event, residents are finding "innovative" ways to attract tourists for some cash: by promoting illegal ecotourism out of their homes. According to the Associated Press, entrepreneurs like Evandro Correia da Silva are temporarily capturing wildlife from the surrounding jungle and charging a fee for interested tourists:
Tourist boats dock on what effectively is the Silva family's front doorstep, and the family snaps into action, peeling the reluctant sloths from the legs of the plastic patio table, rousing the retiring snake from its hiding spot in the corner and offering up the snapping, 2-foot-long caiman to the cameras.
Everyone hugs the adorable three-toed sloths, whose sleepy eyes belie an unexpectedly potent grip, while only the boldest guests - and Silva's 3-year-old daughter - dare wear the snake draped around their shoulders or hold the alligator-like caiman. In return, the visitors purchase soft drinks out of the family fridge and perhaps also leave a cash donation.
Brazilian wildlife officials are on the lookout for operations like Silva's and attempting to shut them down. But, as the AP reports, sensationalized accounts of local fauna are likely fueling the industry, prompting tourists to engage in a potentially harmful wildlife trade.