Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, November 9, 2022


Alex Olivera, +52 612 104 0604,

Investigators Uncover Rampant Wildlife Trafficking in Mexico

Report Finds Imperiled Animals Widely Available in Markets, on Social Media

LA PAZ, Mexico— A report from the Center for Biological Diversity released today finds that trafficking of imperiled wild animals is widespread across Mexico. Species like jaguars, sloths, howler monkeys, crocodiles, sea cucumbers and parrots are traded openly in a robust digital marketplace aided by social media.

An undercover investigation carried out by a Center associate between May and August 2022 confirmed the extent of the problem and exposed traders’ methods. Lax government enforcement, a lack of political will to address the problem and weak social media oversight all contribute to the illegal wildlife market and ensure access for buyers and sellers.

“It’s shockingly easy to buy a wild animal illegally in Mexico,” said Alex Olivera, senior Mexico representative at the Center. “All you need is a social media account and a bit of money. Once animals end up in the illegal pet trade, the odds of them being mistreated and malnourished are high. As more and more imperiled animals are plucked from their habitats for trade, it gets harder for these struggling populations to recover in the wild, where they belong.”

The report’s investigator found that a significant amount of Mexican wildlife trade happens in public and private Facebook groups, despite the platform’s stated policies prohibiting the “buying or selling of animals or animal products.” The report documents illegally caught animals for sale, and the trade is open and easy to access.

Illegal animal trade also occurs in traditional public markets within Mexico, alongside vendors selling vegetables, flowers, clothes and other everyday goods. The markets employ lookouts to prevent shoppers from taking photographs and alert sellers to any behavior that would threaten trade, including asking suspicious questions.

Legally sanctioned wildlife facilities also sometimes provide cover for black market trade, the Center’s investigator found. These include wildlife conservation management units such as zoos, hatcheries, animal sanctuaries and other entities that are permitted by the government to deal with live animals. But these operations have little oversight and frequently sell species not sanctioned by their official permits.

The Center provided an uncensored copy of the report to the Mexican public prosecutor and filed an investigatory complaint against the alleged traffickers. The report contains audio, videos and social media conversations in which species, prices and methods of trade were exposed, which serves as evidence of trafficking.

“Traffickers are basically operating in the open,” Olivera said. “Government and tech companies need to pay attention and take urgent action to save animals from this growing illegal trade.”

Rescued jaguar at a wildlife shelter. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

center locations