Repeated complaints from tourists who visited the northern Peruvian village of Dos de Mayo, Sauce, in the province of San Martin, about the large amount of wildlife used to attract tourists for photo opportunities and to sell as pets or body parts, prompted an intervention and rescue by the group Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC).
NPC visited the village before the rescue disguised as tourists and found animals kept in appalling conditions. Two boa constrictors, used as photo props, had their teeth pulled out and the mouths wrapped with duct tape—apparently, a few months ago another boa bit a visitor’s cheek off when placed on her neck for a photo.
In the worst condition was a terrified infant howler monkey who was being offered to tourists for photographs. Howler monkeys are a protected species in Peru and are extremely sensitive to captivity.
NPC took photos of all the animals and returned the same day with San Martin Government officers, police, and the public prosecutors of Sauce and found most of the owners had taken their animals and fled.
The authorities explained to neighbors and the village authorities that those who didn’t give up their animals would face legal problems and grave economic costs and possible imprisonment. The police made it clear they would return shortly with a search warrant and legal proceedings would be begun against those who refused to cooperate. Three people came forward and voluntarily handed over their animals: a tamarin monkey; a boa constrictor; and a parrot. They will have no legal consequences for their illegal use of wildlife apart from warnings.
The high amount of wildlife in this village is due to a recent increase of tourism. Tourists, be they international or national, generally do not understand the damage they cause when they pay to have their photographs taken with wild animals, purchase one as a pet, or buy a body part. Poaching animals for the tourist trade is an enormous problem worldwide. It is especially acute throughout South America.
NPC cautions, when traveling and you see wildlife used as a tourist attraction, do not pay for it!