(TMU) — As vast portions of the Amazon rainforest continue to burn in record-breaking fires across Brazil, conservationists are warning that the country’s jaguars, cougars, otters, monkeys, parrots and other endangered wildlife could soon be hunted “for sport” under a new bill.
Opponents of the plan warn that the law, which legalizes the hunting, breeding and selling of the rare animals, could easily pass under President Jair Bolsonaro and his ruling Social Liberty Party (PSL) government, according to a new report from the Independent.
Such a move would likely pose a grave threat to the South American country’s biodiversity, which is among the richest in the world.
An estimated 1,100 species in the country are already faced with the looming threat of extinction from poachers and a government that has given free rein to commercial agricultural, logging and mining interests to exploit the sensitive Amazon rainforest.
In July, Brazilian authorities broke up a gang of illegal poachers led by Temistocles Barbosa Freire, a dentist who is believed to have illegally killed over a thousand jaguars since 1987.
Rescue photo of one of the animals that threw themselves into the water trying to save themselves from the Amazon Rainforest Fire pic.twitter.com/RT9QiykJ2P
— Danny (@doglab) August 24, 2019
For the first time in over 50 years, the new law would render commercial hunters free to shoot targets without fear of repercussion, capture animals for sale to private zoos and wildlife centers, and potentially establish commercial hunting grounds.
Advocacy group Rainforest Rescue warned:
“Brazilian environmentalists have criticized the bill sharply, describing hunting as cruel, immoral and a medieval ritual.
Legalized hunting would only cater to hunters’ lust for killing and boost the trade in threatened species.”
The bill would also benefit the powerful Brazilian arms manufacturing lobby and exporters of arms, especially those in the United States.
However, the bill’s author MP Valdir Colatto has defended the law on the grounds that 30 percent of all profits from the envisioned hunting reserves would go toward a fund aimed at preserving wildlife.
The bill also seeks to regulate the lawlessness of hunting, smuggling, illegal slaughter, animal abuse and the extinction of wild and exotic animals while banning the hunting of endangered animals within the reserves, the politician claims.
Yet experts warn that the sensitive nature of Brazil’s natural ecosystems would be set off balance by hunting, adversely impacting people’s quality of life, according to Rainforest Rescue. The group noted:
“Wildlife is crucial for both natural ecosystems and crops: by dispersing seeds it helps regenerate forests, maintains an ecological equilibrium and helps keep pests and diseases under control.”
The bill is currently awaiting approval by the government environment commission, after which it will go before the senate and national congress for final approval.
Michel Santos of WWF-Brazil warned:
“If approved, this project will bring a huge setback for Brazilian biodiversity. The slaughter of animals may even take place in protected areas.”
Bolsonaro’s administration has come under fire for encouraging the illegal deforestation of the Amazon, voicing a hostile attitude toward the environment and frequently using genocidal rhetoric toward indigenous groups whose ancestral land lies in the rainforests.
The president and his officials regularly blame environmental laws, activist groups, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and indigenous peoples for allegedly hindering Brazil’s economic potential.
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