San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New Campaign Targets Plant, Animal Trafficking

The Costa Rican government will spend $26,000 on a campaign to help prevent illegal trafficking of Costa Rica’s animals and plants, according to the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications (MINAET).

In a statement released last week, MINAET said the money, provided by the Central American Environmental Development Commission (CCAD), will be used to buy photographic gear and Global Positioning Systems (GPS). These aids, it said, will help identify the locations and quantities of different species in the country, as well as spot their illegal removal.

The Environment Ministry also will use a portion of the funds to launch a campaign of public announcements and post banners in national parks and at airports and border crossings to increase awareness and warn against illegal trafficking of flora and fauna.

Approximately five percent of the world’s species are found in Costa Rican habitats. According to MINAET, the illicit removal of these species has contributed to population decreases in recent years, as plant and animal products are taken abroad, mostly to the United States and Europe.

MINAET estimates that hundreds of thousands of plants or animals are illegally sent annuallyfrom Latin America for sale in countries around the world. The trafficking of endangered species, according to MINAET, is the third largest illegal business in the world.

Ministry officials said they believe the new campaign will help prevent the smug– gling of these species from Latin America.

The funds from the CCAD come as part of an agreement with the U.S. Department of the Interior to offer financial aid to signatory countries of the DomincanRepublic – Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. (DR-CAFTA). The treaty went into effect in January 2009.

Chapter 17 of DR-CAFTA promises cooperation for the protection of the region’s natural resources.

– Mike McDonald

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