Central America has some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world, with over 18,000 species of wildlife identified in Nicaragua alone. However, the region’s history of deforestation has destroyed critical habitats and brought into question the continued existence of many species. While loss of habitat is typically one of the most significant threats to wildlife, wildlife trafficking is also a serious problem across Central America.
Wildlife trafficking is illegal, yet difficult to enforce. The region’s beautiful birds are frequently stolen from their nests as babies and exported to far-away markets in the US, Europe, and Asia, while animals ranging from monkeys to jaguars are also taken from their mothers at a young age and sold as pets to owners who lack the experience or resources to care for a wild animal. Often in the process of kidnapping the young animal, its parents suffer an unnecessary death at the hands of the poacher. Wildlife trafficking also yields exotic foods and delicacies, which are then sold on the market. Illegal poaching comes largely as a result of poverty—serious need and lack of options forces people to find supplementary sources of income.
Threats to Our Flagship Species
Paso Pacífico selected three animals to serve as our “Flagship Species”: sea turtles, the black-handed spider monkey, and the yellow-naped parrot. Each threatened by both habitat loss and wildlife trafficking, these species represent our wildlife conservation efforts and inform us about the health of the ecosystems in the Paso del Istmo.
There are four species of sea turtle that nest on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua: the Leatherback (Dermocheyls coriacea), Hawkswbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green (Chelonia mydas), and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys Olivacea) turtle species.
Both the Leatherback and Hawksbill are critically endangered, the Green endangered, and the
Olive Ridley vulnerable. The eggs of all four species of sea turtle are considered a delicacy and aphrodisiac, commanding a good price at markets throughout Central American cities. Stealing the eggs of just one or two nesting mothers can triple or
quadruple the $5-a-day income of a Nicaraguan fisherman, yet can have
a dramatic impact on the population of sea turtles nesting locally over the
long run. The Hawksbill turtle is particularly at risk for wildlife
trafficking due to its very beautiful and valuable shell, for which poachers
kill the animal.
Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot
Meanwhile, the population of Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot (Amazona auropalliata), which is a threatened species of Least Concern globally, due to its large range, has fallen below 50 birds in Western Nicaragua, making it critically endangered regionally. The species is at high risk of trafficking, and is sold frequently as a pet in Nicaragua and abroad. Additionally, the Yellow-Naped Parrot prefers to nest in the Javillo tree, many of which have disappeared due to deforestation.
Black-Handed Spider Monkey
The Black-handed Spider Monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) is a completely arboreal (tree-dwelling) and frugivorous (fruit eating) animal that relies on intact and connected forest canopies to survive. For this reason, they are highly sensitive to human disturbance, and as a result of forest fragmentation, spider monkeys are extinct across much of western Nicaragua. Spider Monkeys also face exploitation as a result of illegal animal trafficking in Nicaragua. Under the harsh conditions of captivity, approximately 75% of animals do not survive. Deforestation, coupled with increasing incidents of poaching, makes the Black-handed Spider Monkey the most endangered primate in Central America.
Read more about the species we study and protect
PO Box 1244 • Ventura, CA 93002-1244
Carretera a Masaya Km 12.4
Residencial Villas del Prado, Casa No. 7
© 2006 Paso Pacífico