Sunday, 9 November 2008

Initiatives on water conservation in Brazil

By Jaqueline B. Ramos

Articles published at OOSKAnews report - Latin America issues -

October, 21, 2008
Water Use Charges in Paraíba do Sul Basin to Reach $4.5 Million in 2008


The charge for the use of water in the Paraíba do Sul hydrographic basin must reach, by the end of 2008, a total tax of $4,5 million USD.

The prediction was announced by the Agency of Paraíba do Sul hydrographic basin and the Water National Agency, the regulatory agency of the Brazilian Government.
Since the beginning of the charging process, in 2003, it has raised the sum of $17 million USD. From 2004 to 2007 the money raised was invested in the basin area as follows: 78 percent in structural projects (construction of water treatment stations, residual treatment), 15 percent in planning projects and 6 percent in management projects, which includes campaigns and environmental education programs.

Photo: Paraíba do Sul river in São José dos Campos, São Paulo countryside
According to Hendrik Mansur, AGEVAP’s management coordinator, in 2008 the strategy for the use of the money raised was different, with only 34 percent being invested in structural projects.

“The basin committee, which decides the best investment strategy, believes that from now on it should have more effort to use the money in projects that could lead to new ways of raising more funds to the recuperation of the river,” explained Mansur.

Paraíba do Sul is one of the most important rivers in Brazil and it is located between the two largest Brazilian cities: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.

It crosses along 1.12 kilometers through a region with high population density and great concentration of industrial activities. The whole hydrographic basin comprehends three states in the southeast – Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Minas Gerais.

The charge for the use of water in Paraíba do Sul basin was the first one implemented in the country.

October, 28, 2008
Satellites Used for Water Quality Control Support Environmental Inspecting in Paraíba do Sul River


A project developed together by Cetesb (Environmental Sanitation Technology Company of São Paulo), Inpe (National Spatial Research Institute) and the Committee of Paraíba do Sul hydrographic basin – São Paulo is proving to be of great importance to the environmental inspecting work in one of the most important Brazilian rivers.

Paraíba do Sul River crosses one of the main industrial poles of the country, in São Paulo state, and is also very important to the industrial cities of Rio de Janeiro state, like Volta Redonda and Resende. Project “Stations Net for Data Collection of the Quality of the Water of Paraíba do Sul River – São Paulo area” consists of a data collection system operated via satellites, called PCD.
The stations collect water samples every 10 minutes at three different points – in the future there will be seven stations – and generate measurements every three hours.

The objective is to monitor and control the quality of the water measuring parameters of precipitation, river level, flow, acidity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen, among other information.

“The data and measurements achieved with this technology help us to identify if there is anything abnormal in the quality of the water’s status. If it is the case, we open an investigation process to check, for instance, if there has been any release of prohibited effluents,” affirmed manager and technical coordinator of the project Mario Luiz Alves of Cetesb.

Alves explained that Cetesb has deep knowledge about the river, as monitoring devices have been developed for more than 10 years. Therefore, the company knows the normal parameter ranges of the river. Any number out of this range is considered to be an alert.

“This advanced technology allows us to know what is happening almost in real time. As a result, it is possible to fulfill a more effective environmental inspection work in the river,” said Alves.
The project is the first of its kind to be implemented at the basin and to use such high technology. As a result it has been selected as one of the 18 final competitors of Water National Agency (ANA, in Portuguese) Prize 2008, whose winners will be announced in December. The project has a five-year contract to develop activities till 2010 with an anticipated extension.

November, 4, 2008
Water Quality Improved Through Seedling Plantings


Forty thousand seedlings of native Atlantic forest trees have been planted in 35 nascents located in brooks near the Paraiba do Sul River in São José dos Campos located in the countryside some 90 kilometers from São Paulo, with a population of 500,000, is part of a pioneering project in Brazil.

Photo: planting of seedlings in one of the nascents

Called “Revitalization of Nascents,” it was created and developed by the local Environment
Secretary for the city in 2006. The project involved planting of native plant seedlings in an area of 50 meters around the location of the nascent, which leads to an average of 1,500 seedlings planted at each point.

After the planting phase, a team of specialized professionals visits each point regularly
to inspect and maintain the growing trees for a minimum of two years. This should guarantee the conservation of the new young forest that will ultimately be responsible for a good quantity and quality of the waters that spring from the ground and form the Paraíba do Sul River.
“In almost two years of activities we had lost only one nascent, because of arson, and we are able to check that some of these 35 nascents already present a rise in the quantity of the water. We considered this an excellent result and we are also very satisfied that we already promote planting activities in all the regions of the city,” said Andrea Sundfeld, the project coordinator
and environmental education consultant of the secretary.

From the 35 nascents that are monitored by the project, five were “adopted” by companies
of the region, which became partners and are in charge of the planting and conservation
of their nascent points. Among these companies is Embraer (Brazilian Aeronautical
Company), whose main plant is located in São José dos Campos.

Apart from the planting of seedlings, the project also develops environmental education
activities. These involve students, community leaders and residents from areas where the nascents are located, in hopes that they will become partners and continue the project.

By the end of 2007, 7,000 children had participated of the project’s activities, including
the ones in the field. Currently, the Environment Secretary is about to start the third phase of the project, which involves owners of private lands that have nascents on their property.

For the results achieved since 2006, this pioneering initiative was recognized by the National Water Agency (ANA) and the project is one of the final competitors of the ANA Prize 2008. Results of that competition will be announced in a month.

“It’s important to point out that the revitalization of the nascents does not consist only of the conservation of water resources. We are also contributing to recuperation and protection of biodiversity and the improvement of air quality, not to mention the contribution to control global warming,” explained Sundfeld.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Animal Rights: ethics and respect

By Jaqueline B. Ramos*

The analysis of the way we deal with Nature evokes a very important reflection: the way that human beings relate to, use and/or exploit the non-human animals. Today there is no more doubt about the sentience of the animals (the ability to feel pain or pleasure) and subjects like ethics on the use of animals in circuses and the real need of using animals in Science, not to mention the environmental impacts and the respect for animal welfare at livestock farming processes, are being much more discussed and considered by society. Together with this urgency of humankind rethink the “supremacy” over the non-human animals, a new area, for reflection and action, has been being built and developed both in Brazil and in the rest of the world: Animal Rights.

In 1928, Italian professor Cesare Goretti affirmed that “the ones who mistreat animals do not know the universal pain that lies in each living being; they deny a genuine right, which exists even that the animal is not able to fight for it.” Some centuries before names like Francisco Bernardone (Saint Francisco of Assis), Leonardo Da Vinci and Mahatma Gandhi, this last one in the 20th century, had already used their arguments in favour of the defense of animal rights.

More recently, names like Australian philosopher Peter Singer, British primatologist Jane Goodall and South-African writer J.M. Coetzee (Nobel Prize of Literature in 2003, with the book “The life of the animals”) contribute, with their breakthroughs, researches and points of view to develop the perception that treat the animals with respect and dignity is much more than a ethics issue. Like public attorney Laerte Levai writes in the book “Animal Rights”, “slowly people are becoming aware that treating the animals with dignity is not a matter of doing them a favor, but it is a matter of fulfilling the rights that belong to them.”

Constitutional Right: Fortunately, in Brazil, country that is considered to have one of the most advanced environmental law in the world, animal protection is quoted in the Federal Constitution, approved in 1988. On article 225, it is defined that “the Government should protect fauna and flora and it is forbidden, with laws, the practices that could put in danger their ecological function, that could lead to extinction of the species or that expose animals to cruelty.” This idea was the basis for article 32 of the Environmental Crimes Law (9605, dated 1988), which consider a cruelty act against an animal a infraction with penalty.

Nevertheless, as Dr. Laerte explains in his book, despite the entire legal basis, it’s very difficult to change the scenery that has been causing, for centuries, so much suffering to animals without citizenship engagement activity and effective authorities action. Considering this, one can affirm that, apart from the lack of effective inspecting operations conducted by responsible authorities, one of the main difficulties to completely implement the animal rights is the subjectivity behind the concepts of cruelty and mistreating. For instance: keeping a wild animal locked in a small cage in a circus could not be considered as a mistreating if one believes in the idea that the animals are well feed and are part of the “family”. But, in fact, just the act of depriving a wild animal of enjoying its natural habitat and behavior for the sake of an economic activity, from each some people will have profits, must be defined as a mistreating. Not to mention other problems caused to animals that are exploited as products, or, many times, hunted and illegally caught from its habitat.

No matter the difficulties, the movement “Animal Rights” has been gaining power and credibility all over the world. Including Brazil. In 2005, professor and public attorney Heron Santana, from Bahia state, coordinated a case that became a world reference in the area. Together with other teachers, law students and animal defense organizations, Dr. Santana ordered for a habeas-corpus in favor of chimpanzee Suiça, 23 years old, who was living at Salvador zoo for four years.

After the death of Geron, Suiça’s partner, who had cancer, the female chimpanzee started to have an abnormal behavior. This was the justification for Suiça to be released from the zoo and to be sent to a sanctuary, to live with other chimps. Suiça was the first animal in the world that was recognized as a beneficiary of a law action, but she had no time to enjoy her freedom. The habeas-corpus was approved one day after she was found dead in her cage at the zoo. Even though, the case had an important role, very important to aware Judges and other legal professionals that analyze the cases related to animal rights.

In 2007, another event made history. Judge Gustavo Alexandre Belluzzo, from São José dos Campos (São Paulo state), approved the action ordered by the Public Justice Department and forbid the circus Le Cirque to present its shows with animals all over the state’s territory. The judgment’s text quotes the Federal Constitution and a regional law for protection of animals. Apart from that, the Judge affirms that “documents signed by vets and by IBAMA (Brazilian Environment Institute) simply apply for the formality of the process. In reality, the submission imposed to animal in circus tours leads to an abusive and cruel situation that no longer can be accepted by modern society.”

Despite these breakthroughs, a lot must be done yet in order that the animals are treated with the respect they deserve. Experimentation with animals and discussions about humanitarian slaughter and intensive farming to attend the high demand for meat still cause controversy and divide opinions. However, it’s very important that the discussion is based on reflection and leads to practical actions. And this has to do with everyone responsibility and social role. According jainismo (hindu religion), we should not harm other live being and liberation depends on each one individual effort. Gandhi, who was influenced by this ideology, used to ask, in his search for peace, for mercy for all the animals, reminding people that the non-human animals were victims of human cruelty and were not strong enough to resist. In other words, we could affirm that every animal have rights and deserve to be respect. Including you.

Source: Book “Animal Rights”, by Laerte Fernando Levai (Mantiqueira publisher)

Universal Declaration of Animal Rights

The Universal Declaration of Animal Rights was solemnly proclaimed in 1978 at UNESCO International Assembly. In spite of being considered a conquest of animal defense movement, the declaration does not have legal application. The 10 principles of the declaration are:

1 – Every animal has the right to life
2 – Every animal has the right to be respected and to have human protection.
3 – No animal should be mistreated.
4 – Every wild animal have the right to live free, in their natural habitat.
5 – The animal that men choose as a partner should never be abandoned.
6 – No animal should be used in experiments that cause them pain.
7 – Every act that put the life of an animal in risk is a crime against life.
8 – Pollution and environmental destruction are considered to be crimes against the animals.
9 – Animal rights should be defended with laws.
10 – Men should be educated since childhood to observe, respect and comprehend animals.

GAP Project – Great Primates Rights

GAP is an international movement that aims to defend the rights of the non-human great primates - chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and bonobos, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom. The main rights are: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty and the prohibition of torture.

GAP was the result of ideas developed on a book that has the same name, written by philosophers Paola Cavalieri and Peter Singer, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the animal defense and rights movement in the world. In the book, the authors and other renowned specialists, like British primatologist Jane Goodall, explain that human beings and great primates share important characteristics, like social organization, communications and strong affectionate bonds among the individuals, which demonstrates that they are intelligent and, consequently, that they should have similar rights to ours.

Currently GAP has representations on many countries, among them Brazil. Here the first ideas were put in practice in 2000 at Sorocaba city, countryside of São Paulo state. A three-month old orfan chimpanzee was adopted and raised as a human by microbiologist Pedro Ynterian, who established the first Brazilian sanctuary for chimpanzees. The “baby” was named Guga (see more on “Our Guests”) and aroused the interest for rescue and close treatment of chimpanzees victims of mistreating in the country, which was the start of GAP Brazil’s activities.

Since 2006, GAP Brazil is officially represented by NGO GAP Project – Support Group for Primates. On 2008, Brazil has four sanctuaries affiliated and aligned with GAP’s ideas that rehome 74 chimpanzees, the majority rescued and recovered after being mistreated at circus or living under inadequate conditions in zoos.

More information:

*Published at Aqualung Ecological Institute Magazine – n. 80 – July/August 2008

Thursday, 28 August 2008

IBAMA x Animals in circus – latest news from Brazil

IBAMA x Animals in circus – latest news from Brazil

by Jaqueline B. Ramos

While the Federal Law that will prohibit the use of animals in circus is not approved in Brazil – a public audiende to discuss the a bill proposal was scheduled to November 4th -, the war against mistreating of animals in this kind of entertainment activity continues.

Photo: Giraffe from Le Cirque (by Campo Grande News)

One of the circus with the largest number of animals that travels around Brazil, named Le Cirque, was in Brasilia in the beginning of August and the licence that permits the circus to present at the capital had been suspended. On Tuesday, August 12th , IBAMA and public prosecutors did an inspection operation and found out unsafe installations and clear evidence of mistreating against a lot of animals, among them them two chimpanzees, one rhinoceront, one hippopotamus, one giraffe, one camel and several elephants. The operation resulted on the decision of confiscate the animals and relocate them to more approppriate places.

It’s worth to point out that the circus had already been forbiden, by Justice, to do presentations with the animals at São Paulo state last year for the same reasons.






GAP Project Brazil presents some photos of the place where Jeber and Tyson, the chimpanzees from Le Cirque, used to live before going to the Sanctuary. There are also photos from the chimps already settled at the Sanctuary and these shows the evidence of the mistreating committed against them.

Photo: Chimp relocated at GAP Sanctuary, after years of mistreating in circus. He has scars of chains around his neck (by GAP Brazil Project)

# The chimpanzees were confined in a trailler of no more than 10 meters together with an hippopotamus. They were separated from each other only by a narrow corridor.

# The place where they were kept was extremely dirty and completely deteriorated. The “beds” were in so bad conditions that the chimps were not able to lay down on them.

# The cage was completely unsafe, as tit was in bad conditions and was not locked properly. There was a big chance that the chimps break the door lock and run away.

# The chimps suffered several mutilations. They were castrated – testicules extraction – and had all their teeth pulled out. They also have scars of chains around their necks.

# After some exams made by the veterinary of GAP's Sanctuary, it was found out that Jeber and Tyson were infected with two parasites (Strongyloides stercolaris and Ascaris lumbricoides), transmitted by men to animals and vice-versa and related to very low hygiene standards.

If this is not considered mistreating, what more do we need to prove it?

Photos: Position of the mouth with all the teeth pulled out; Castration (testicules extraction); Chain scars around the neck; Bad conserved and small cage where the chimps were kept in the circus (by GAP Project Brazil)


On August 15th, Federal Regional Tribunal (TRF, in Portuguese) from Brasília – DF suspended the resolution that had been signed by the 9th Federal Bureau from DF in favour of the circus Le Cirque. The resolution suspended the decision of closing the circus and defined the return of the two chimpanzees and one hippopotamus seized after IBAMA’s operation four days before.

TRF analysed documents released by IBAMA after the inspection operation that resulted on the confiscation of the animals and also a report by GAP Project Brazil. Both documents showed unsafe instalation conditions and evidence of mistreating against the animals.

Besides, the Judge from the 3th Criminal Departament from Brasília, Dr. Waldir da Paz Almeida, has decided, based on similar documents, that the chimpanzees confiscated should be kept at the Ecological Sanctuary on Sorocaba (São Paulo countryside), affiliated to GAP Project. He has concluded that the circus was commiting ennvironmental crime, according to the Federal Law 9605/98 (Environmental Crimes Law).

As a result, it has been officially defined that the two chimpanzees confiscated are going to live on the sanctuary, where they were taken after IBAMA’s request.

Now it depends on the authorities in charge to put an end on the mistreating against the other animals that are still under the circus possession. On Friday, August 15th, the owners of Le Cirque ran away with the animals that were officially confiscated by IBAMA and this made it impossible for the Environmental Police to seize the animals, as it had been defined by the 3th Criminal Departament from Brasília.


Pony from Le Cirque dies at Brasilia Zoo; one camel and one elephant are in bad health condition

August, 27th 2008: One of the ten ponies that used to belong to the circus Le Cirque died yesterday after arriving at Brasilia Zoo. This sad episode is one more chapter of the recent enviornmental operation against the circus Le Cirque, that was intercepted by IBAMA two weeks ago because of clear evidence of animals’s mistreating.

The exact cause of the pony’s death is still unkonwn and one of the camels, named “Xuxa”, is also in very bad health condition. When Brazilian Federal Tribunal defined that all the animals of the circus should be confiscated to have a fair treatment, the owners of the circus ran away from Brasilia to Mato Grosso do Sul state.

Photo: Animals at the traillers during and after the road trip (by Campo Grande News)

The animals arrived there in very narrow and bad conserved trailers and were taken back to Brasilia under these same conditions, coming up against 35 hours of road trip. Apart from that, the circus owners took too much time to take the animals out of the trailers in Brasilia and IBAMA was only able to take the animals out and locate them at the zoo’s enclosures one day after they had arrived.

According to IBAMA, these situation could have been one of the causes of the pony’s death. And also, one can afirm that this is one more evidence of mistreating and lack of respect with the animals in Le Cirque. It’s worth to point out that one african elephant and one rhinoceront, who share the same trailer to be transported, are still in Mato Grosso do Sul. The elephant has one of his paws hurt and is very weak too.


How the animals were transported by the circus

1,91m long x 2,5m wide — 2 lhamas and 4 ponies4,10m long x 2,5m wide — 2 camels
3,28m long x 2,5m wide — 2 giraffes
2,84m long x 2,5m wide — 6 ponies and one zebra

How they used to live at the circus

Chimpanzees — between 2, 25m² and 3,75m²
The minimum recommended is 60m²

Elephants — 47m²
The minimum recommended is 1,5 mil m²

Source: “Correio Braziliense” newspaper

More information (in portuguese):,id_sessao=13&id_noticia=27707/noticia_interna.shtml

Monday, 21 January 2008

Hello everyone!

Welcome to Ambiente-se in English, a version of my blog Ambiente-se - - dedicated to my non-portuguese speakers friends and colleagues. And of course, also to my Brazilian and Portuguese friends who enjoy reading in English.

This is not exactly a translated blog, but a space where I intend to publish the articles, texts etc that I have the chance to write in English.

The first article that I publish is "Born to be wild", which was the main result of my studies in Cambridge University (UK) during my experience as a press fellow in the Wolfson Press Fellowship (Sept-Dec 2007).

In this text I write about a recent change made on the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the UK that raises the question of how complex the trade of wild animals is, both to conservation and animal welfare. At the same time, in Brazil, Conama (National Council of Environment) has approved a resolution that defines the criteria of a list of wild animals that will be allowed to be sold as pets in the country.

This text is an attempt to cross the current status of regulation on the trade of wild species of animals in the UK (developed country) and in Brazil (non-developed), generating an overview (and a point of reflection) about the problem of poaching of animals everywhere in the world.

The animal trafficking "industry" is the third biggest one in terms of amounts of money negotiated - behind only the drug and weapons trafficking - and makes a lot of animals suffer and die only for the amusement of humans, I dare say. Only in Brazil, it is estimated that 38 millions of animals are illegaly caught from the ecosystems every year, and the majority of them dies during transportation. Also, the majority of these animals are sold to US and Europe, which make it very important to analyse how the Law in these countries could encourage (or not) the traffinking in its origin.

Hope you have the chance to read all the article - sorry, it is a little bit long... - and that the information presented can be useful for your work and lives. And I also like to thank some special people who helped me a lot in this work: John Naughton, director of Wolfson Press Fellowship Programme, Paul Brown, environmental journalist and also a press fellow in the Michaelmas term, and Dr. Anabela Pinto, my animal welfare teacher and dearest friend.

All the best,

Jaqueline B. Ramos

Born to be wild (November 2007)

After considering 33 wild animals – covering 120 species - harmless enough to be kept as pets without the need of a licence, a recent review in the Dangerous Wild Animals Act in the UK ended up raising the complex implications behind having exotic animals at home, as if they are just like cats and dogs.

by Jaqueline B. Ramos
(Photo: Sloth in the Amazon Forest, Brazil/by Jaqueline B.Ramos)

Christmas is coming. Suzanne and Bill want to surprise their two children with unusual presents. A breeder in the neighborhood is selling the cutest black lion tamarin. What a catch! No other kids in the school have a monkey pet from the far away rainforests of South America. Tamarins are more exotic than cats and there is no need at all to apply for a licence anymore since it was recently listed as a non-dangerous wild animal in the UK.

What an exciting Christmas Eve! The kids are crazy about the animal and spend all their time playing with it until it is exhausted. Crackers, so they named the tamarin, tries to escape the stress of being constantly handled by the kids. Some of the behaviour, apparently cute and playful, are no more than expressions of distress and fear. Sooner or later its jumping results in ornaments breaking. Spots of urine and faeces start appearing on the furniture. Finally one of the kids is accidentally bitten when handling the monkey which screams in distress.

By February the little monkey isn’t that funny anymore and its charm has faded. The kids have already forgotten about it and would much rather have the latest i-Pod. Suzanne and Bill only feed it when they have time before and after work, keep it in a cage so it can not destroy the house and wander what will be the best thing to do with the monkey - which, by the way, is officially considered as a critically endangered species (according to the IUCN Red List 2007), as they are surprised to discover later on.

This fictional story can very well become a reality since the recent change in the UK Dangerous Wild Animals Act (DWA). A total of 33 animals (equals 120 species), among them several tamarins, sloths (photo), lemurs, emus, mangrove snakes and even Brazilian wolf spiders, are considered harmless enough to be kept as pets without the need of a licence (see information at the end of this article about the de-listed species and conservation and animal welfare implications).

The critical amendment in the DWA Act was released by DEFRA – the UK Department for
Environment Food and Rural Affairs at the beginning of October. It removes the need for a licence to keep 33 animals, which in practical terms means that owning any of the animals listed now as non-dangerous can be done without any difficulty, since controls on the owners of these animals are no longer required.

Natural habitats, not houses

Although the reclassification as non-dangerous was based on the premise that these animals cause no more harm than a domestic dog or cat, it does not take in consideration the fact that wild animals have not been selectively bred for domestication for as long as our common pets.

Black Lion Tamarin (photo by Wildlife Trust)

It took about ten thousand years to domesticate dogs and five thousand for cats. Despite this many of them still face welfare problems due to the owners’ lack of understanding of their behavioural and physiological needs. This ignorance may trigger behavioural problems and the abandonment of many animals, leading to an increasing population of homeless or sheltered animals.

Species that have been domesticated for so many years have been selected for characteristics that make them dependent on humans. There has been a selective pressure to accommodate behaviour that is compatible to a human environment.

Exotic wild animals, whether bred in captivity or illegally caught, have not been subject to this artificial selection. In order to maintain welfare standards, owning one of these animals would require adequate knowledge and information about its needs.

Domestication of wild animals without appropriate understanding will only contribute to a substantial decrease of their welfare. Inducing suffering is not ethically acceptable. So, it is reasonable to question the ethical status of keeping animals in artificial human environments just for the amusement of humans.

By making it easy to acquire these animals, the change to the DWA Act promotes and facilitates the breeding of species unsuitable for linving in humanized and urban environments. Wild animals belong in their natural habitats.

Removing an animal from its natural habitat to be sold as pets or live toys is also a threat to the biodiversity. There are only two possible sources for such animals: legally registered breeders or illegal wildlife trade. Even with the legal breeders, the question is what was the primary origin of the animals in the first place?

When DEFRA officials are questioned about conservation and animal welfare implications of the recent changes of the DWA Act, they make it clear that “the Act was placed to protect the public from wild animals which were privately owned, rather than to conserve species”.

It is not enough to think only about how dangerous wild animals are to humans. It is necessary to think further about the implications that this classification may lead to. But the DWA Act’s perspective is of public safety and the justification is wider legislation linked to it covering conservation and animal welfare issues, like the Animal Welfare Act, which came into force in 2006, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, (CITES), which controls by a licensing system the import and export of endangered species in 172 States which are parties to the convention.

“The DWA Act does have some ancillary welfare provisions within it, although it really shouldn’t, and so we delayed the removal of the species until the AW Act came into force to ensure that the de-listed species wouldn’t be left without any welfare protection”, says Dave Wootton, policy advisor from Wildlife Species Conservation Division who has the responsibility for the DWA Act in DEFRA.

Wootton adds that the present Act was the subject to one more consultation in the end of 2007 looking at some further deregulatory measures, but not changing the list of species. He explains that ancillary welfare provisions are to be removed and reference will then be made to the AW Act.

The AW Act came into force in 2006 and makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met. This includes the need for a suitable environment and diet, exhibition of normal behaviour patterns, to be housed with, or away from, other animals (if applicable) and to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease.

However, little or no information is provided about the proper handling and husbandry of exotic pets. Neither by the Law – general codes of practice to provide guidance on the keeping of certain species, such as dogs, cats and primates, are still under construction – nor by the suppliers of the animals.

“Many exotic animals are not only potentially dangerous to humans but are extremely difficult to look after properly and need specialist care. We are disappointed and concerned that several exotic species have been removed from the DWA Act schedule”, says Tim Thomas, Senior Scientist of the Wildlife Department from RSPCA – the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Offences under the AW Act, like causing an animal to suffer unnecessarily, can lead to criminal prosecution. The RSPCA is the organization responsible for checking a possible offence after being informed of some cruelty against an animal.

“We really hope that the AW Act complements the DWA. But the control to ensure animal welfare is object of concern yet, because we can only do something after the animal is suffering or has already suffered. We depend on people revealing the abuses they see”, says Thomas.

He continues: “Our biggest concern is still with the welfare of all these exotic pets, even with the new regulation. The AW Act puts a duty of care on pet owners and we urge people to thoroughly research their choice of pet before they buy it and make sure they can look after it properly”.

Thomas say that the RSPCA aims to enforce a code of practice with information about the basic provisions needed to keep exotic animals, so that people are aware of how complex it is and are encouraged to think more cautiously before deciding to have them.

Apart from that, the RSPCA is working on a proposal for the final consultation of the DWA Act that suppliers are required to apply for a licence from the local authority, for the case of wild animals which still require licences to be kept as pets.

The RSPCA’s proposal of a stricter control on the suppliers represents an attempt to reinforce the monitoring of the trade in wild animals in the UK, which nowadays is run under the rules of CITES. The Convention came into force in 1975 and was introduced in order to help protect endangered species from excessive international trade, principally concerned about the conservation of species.

Despite the presence of CITES, the effectiveness of the protection depends on the introduction and enforcement of national law. Many states parties passed strict laws and created national policing bodies to enforce CITES regulations.

Even so, there is still a large and profitable illegal wildlife trade all around the world, estimated at more than ten billion US dollars a year, comparable to drug and weapons trafficking in terms of profits.

According to IUCN Red List 2007, 30% of the de-listed species are considered threatened and, therefore, are covered by Appendix I of CITES – the one which prohibits all commercial trade in a species, affording the greatest protection.

DEFRA makes it very clear that the trade itself is not its responsibility. “There is no direct link between the two pieces of legislation. Tigers are listed on Appendix I of CITES but not wandering spiders, however both require a licence under the DWA Act”, affirms Wootton.

It really does not seem that those who drafted the DWA Act in the UK ever considered the reinforcement of CITES. On the contrary, it is arguable that it encourages the trade in a significant number of wild animals, almost one third of them already threatened, suggesting future problems in conservation and controlling of illegal trade.

Encouraging illegal trade?

In a nutshell, the DWA Act came into force in 1976 with the intention of regulating the keeping of certain kinds of dangerous wild animals in order to protect the public. Some of the listed species were tasmanian devils, gibbons, tigers, crocodiles and elephants.

According to DEFRA, the large number of zoos and commercial safari parks in the UK during the 1960s and early 70s led to an increasing trade of dangerous carnivores, which was considered an offence at common law causing a public nuisance by keeping animals to the danger of the public.

A major review was commissioned by DEFRA in 2000. This review, and its recommendations, led to further consultations in 2001 and 2004. Analyzing the evolution of the Bill and the intention of Parliament, it’s worth pointing out the position of the House of Lords during the latest review: “this Bill deals in a timely way with a mischief which has already become apparent and which, without provision of this kind, definitely threatens to grow larger. The main purpose is to discourage the keeping of dangerous wild animals as pets, but is sufficiently flexible to allow for exceptional circumstances.”

De-listing 120 wild animals from the need of a licence appears to be one of the exceptional circumstances, for it definitely is not a way of discouraging the keeping of exotic pets at all, whether they are considered dangerous for humans or not.

In the opinion of Rachel Hevesi, Health and Welfare officer of the Monkey Sanctuary Trust, a charity for primate welfare and conservation based in Cornwall, “Since the change in the DWA Act there has been unfortunate publicity. Newspapers reported it stating that now it is possible to keep primates, almost encouraging people. In the days following the publicity we took telephone calls from people who had believed that keeping a primate was illegal and are now keen to buy one. The market has been encouraged and, in our opinion, a dangerous message sent out.”
Bay cat (photo by

DEFRA’s justification is that the latest review found that the Act should be updated, as some of the animals listed were considered to be no more dangerous than domestic cats and dogs and further animals needed to be added to the dangerous list. So they took the advice of experts to revise the list of non-dangerous wild animals.

The group of experts consulted by DEFRA for the revision was composed by specialists from RSPCA, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Bristol Zoological Gardens, Welsh Mountain Zoo, Zoological Society of London, National Association of Private Animal Keepers, Oxford University and International Zoo Veterinary Group.

The experts took into account factors such as the animal’s armory, the animal’s ferocity, the potential harm it could to a child, the animal’s likely behaviour when unrestrained or cornered outside of the keeper’s premises, recorded incidents of deaths or serious injury and what legislation already exists for regulating the acquisition or keeping of animals.

“After intense discussion with the government, the kind of judgment used for this review was, for instance, the fact that the wild cats listed as non-dangerous have teeth and claws sometimes smaller than a domesticated cat, or that the sloth moves too slowly to cause any harm. The DWA Act does not take into account the fact that many of the animals de-listed are extremely difficult to look after properly”, explains Tim Thomas, from RSPCA, who was one of the experts consulted.

Specialist keepers are also critical of the recent changes and the DWA Act. “Licensing procedures and fees charged are found to vary widely between areas and this is a problem. In some counties you pay £95 for a licence fee per year and in others this value reaches £600. The level of information required from the candidate of a licence is also different. Depending on the county it can be very easy to get a licence to own a wild animal”, says Rory Matier, consultant to The Specialist Keepers Association (TSKA), based in Lincolnshire.

Basically, anyone can nowadays apply to the Local Council for an exotic pet licence, as the Act is administered and enforced by local authorities (city, district or borough councils). The environmental or wild life division of the police, for instance, is only called if a situation with a dangerous animal is not under control.

The Act says that local authorities cannot grant a licence unless someone over the age of 18 makes an application specifying the species and number of animals and the premises where they will be kept and pays the appropriate fee. In addition, a licence, that is valid until the end of the year it has been issued, cannot be granted unless a vet has inspected the premises and produced a report for the local authority attesting that the animals can be suitably held there.

According to DEFRA, for the animals that clearly require specialist keeping, it would be for the local authority to decide whether a licence should be issued in each case. As long as a person satisfies all of the required local criteria, the assumption is that a licence would be granted.

“The main problem emerges from the fact that this legislation never came out aiming husbandry or animal welfare. And apart from that, the trade of wild animals holds a lot of money. Most times the supplier is not really very interested in who is buying, but only in how much it is paid. After this recent change, it’s expected a raise on the prices of some animals, making it even more like a business”, speculates the consultant to TSKA.

No matter if it is considered dangerous or not, the fact is that the idea of wild animals as pets raises many questions. What about the primary suffering of the animal out of his natural habitat? And if the owner is not able to cope with the exotic pet and wants to give it up, what happens to the animal? And what about the risk of illegal trade growing and even irrational breeding of wild animals in captivity?

“I wonder how the non-licenced ownership of wild animals will be policed. Responsible keepers care for the animals in the first place, but we are living in a disposable society. People get what they want, with no serious reflection, and after a while just discharge it. This can easily happen with wild animals as pets. People would lose interest in the animal after some weeks, giving it only basic needs as food and water and keeping it locked in a room or a cage”, points out Matier.

“No amount of human love can compensate for a primate not having companionship of its own species”, declares Hevesi about the monkeys, although the idea can be applied to every wild animal. “Our link with primate sanctuaries in South America enabled us to gather evidence to show that the UK primate trade did have an impact on the wild population in the native countries”, says Hevesi.

The origin of the animals – Brazil case study

Coming back to the beginning of this article, one can also establish a link between the recent changes in the DWA Act in the UK with the delicate question of the origin of the exotic pets. The black lion tamarin bought by Suzanne and Bill in my opening scenario is a primate which is critically endangered; and its natural habitat is the tropical rainforests of Brazil.

Brazil is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity, but faces huge problems with poaching and trafficking in wild animals, mainly for export. Nearly half the animals illegally caught, mostly parrots and other birds, go to Europe and United States, according to the National Network Against Wild Animal Trade (Renctas, in Portuguese). It is also estimated that the country accounts for about 15% of the world’s illegal trade of wild animals.

Young blue macaws illegaly caught from the wild in Brazil (photo by Neiva Guedes/Fiocruz)

“The recent change in the DWA law in the UK is likely to trigger an increase in poaching here, as sloths, tamarins and other monkeys, for instance, are from Brazil. More demand can lead to more animals being caught from the forests. This won’t help our work on protection of fauna and will make the control procedures even harder to be apllied”, speculates Vincent Kurt Lo, environmental analyst of the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama, in Portuguese).

In a brief analysis of the de-listed animals of the DWA Act, it is possible to check that 36% of the 120 species are originated from South America, including Brazil. There is no doubt that this is a significant number (see box at the end of this article for graphic of the origin of the de-listed animals from DWA Act).

At the same time as changes in the DWA Act in the UK took place, the National Council for Environment (Conama) in Brazil approved a resolution to define the criteria for a list of native wild animals that will be allowed to be bred and traded as pets in the country. Presently Brazilian law allows for the keeping of wild animals as pets, but there is no list that defines which species can be kept. Now a list is being prepared by Ibama to be released for public consultation in six months.

The question is: will this list slow down the trade of wild animals or will it end up leading to a rise in the trade in Brazil? There are two answers for this question: both situations can happen.

Since 1967 there has been a national law (5197 Law) that encourages the breeding of wild animals for economic and industrial purposes, more related to leather activities. However no clause specifies clearly the breed and trade of wild animals to be kept as pets. This list aims to bridge this gap and there’s no doubt that regulation incorporating a list of wild animals to be kept as pets can help to control the trade. This would be the “slow down” scenario.

On the other hand, the (depressing) Brazilian reality related to control procedures can lead to a situation that the list could be a kind of “excuse” to raise the trade and the illegal activities behind it.

The fact is that even with the 40-year old Law and the two amendments brought under control in 1997 and 1998, poaching and trafficking of wild animals has been increasing in Brazil in the last decades.

According to the First National Report of Illegal Trade of Wild Animals in Brazil, released in 2001 by Renctas and the country’s Ministry of Environment, about 38 million animals are illegally caught from the Brazilian ecosystems every year.

For every ten animals caught, only one arrives at the planned final destination: the other nine die during transportation. Also, the report estimated that around 400 gangs are responsible for the poaching in Brazil and 40% of them have connections with other illegal activities.

Another negative implication is the fact that the animals illegally caught are cheaper for the poachers, because there are no expenses with veterinarians, biologists or other specialists to care for the animals. This increases the poachers’ profits and reinforces the trafficking industry.

“The trade of wild species has not been working as a solution for the trafficking in Brazil. On the contrary, most of times the official breeders can hide illegal activities and help to raise the non-official trade”, says the environmental analyst from Ibama.

Apart from that, the institute faces problems of lack of people and resources to do all the proper monitoring work in the field. The animals which come from the licenced breeders are marked with microchips or rings and Ibama issues a document attesting its origin. But the documents, microchips and rings can be easily faked by the “trafficking industry”. The solution would be a database of the genes of the animals, so that the inspection of the origin could be made by DNA test.

According to Vincent, the list of wild animals to be pets is worth having only if the number of species is extremely limited. Instead of encouraging people to have exotic animals at home, the government should stimulate people to go to Nature to watch them, in ecotourism activities.

Vincent’s views are not unique. The Fauna Inspection Division of the institute, which is elaborating the list and coordinates the control of the trade in the country, warns about the disadvantages of the encouragement of owning wild animals as pets.

Among the disadvantages are the diseases that can be transmitted to humans and other animals, lack of technical knowledge by Brazilian vets to treat wild animals, all the problems of welfare and stress in captivity, lack of ready-balanced food for a proper diet and the abandonment of the animal after getting aware of the hard work that the breeding demands.

It is also worth remembering that the release of a wild animal in an ecosystem which is not its natural habitat can cause serious ecological problems. The Brazilian law defines that “the breeder or the supplier must give the buyers a text with all the basic orientation to a proper care of the wild animal and should recommend that no animal is allowed to be release without Ibama’s consent.” But again, the rule is not followed because of problems on inspection. So yes, there are people who release animals without any criteria.

Born to be wild, definitely

It is not difficult to realize all the complex implications and problems that lay behind the subject “trade of wild animals”. The recent change in the DWA Act in the UK (which can represent the role of “consumer countries”) and the current situation of poaching and difficulties of the trade inspection in Brazil (which can represent the role of “origin countries”) are a demonstration of how humankind are dealing, not so properly, with wild animals.

Wild animals are not ours to be pets, pieces of decoration or collection. Anything that goes against this idea is unsustainable and therefore leads to a lot of problems, from the social and economical ones related to trafficking and poaching, to ethical and moral ones, related to animal welfare, conservation and ecological issues. Wild animals were definitely born to be wild. And that’s it.

I – Animals which do not require a license anymore to be kept as pets, acording to the Dangerous Wild Animals Act (Oct 2007)

Woolly lemurs (Avahi laniger)
Mammal- Primate

Tamarins (species of the genus Leontopithecus and Saguinus)
Mammal- Primate

Night (or owl) monkeys (species of the genus Aotus)
Mammal- Primate

Squirrel monkeys (species of the genus Saimiri)
Mammal- Primate

Titis monkeys (species of the genus Callicebus)
Mammal- Primate

Sloths (Bradypodidae - family)

North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum)

Capybara (Hydrochaeridae)

Crested porcupines (species of the genus Hystrix)

Cat hybrids (whose ancestry is predominantly Felis Silvestris catus – the domestic cat)

Wild cat (Felis silvestris)

Pallas cat (Otocolobus manul)

Little spotted cat (Leopardus tigrinus)

Geoffroy’s cat (Oncifelis geoffroyi)

Kodkod (Oncifelis guigna)

Bay cat (Catopuma badia)

Sand cat ( Felis margarita)

Blackfooted cat (Felis nigripes)

Rusty-spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)

Cacomistles (species of the genus Bassariscus)

Raccoons (species of the genus Procyon)

Coatis (species of the genus Nasua)

Olingos (species ot the genus Bassaricyon)

Little coatimundi (Nasuella olivacea)

Binturong (Arctictis binturong)

Kinkajou (Potos flavus)

Hyraxes (Family Procaviidae)

Guanaco (Lama guanicoe)

Vicugna (Vicugna vicugna)

Emus (Família Dromaiidae)

Sand snake (species of the genus Psammophis)

Magrove snake (Boiga dendrophila)

Brazilian wolf spider (Lycosa raptoria)

II - Graphics (numerical analysis)

* Total of species related to the 33 animals quoted as taken away of the list which requires license to be kept as pets: 120

* % of the species listed which are considered threatened, according to the IUCN Red List 2007 (including Conservation Dependent*): 30%
IUCN Red List Categories 2007

* Conservation Dependent: Taxa which are the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-specific conservation programme targeted towards the taxon in question, the cessation of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened categories above within a period of five years.

* % - Origin of the animals (natural habitat per continent/region)

III – Brief Animal Welfare analysis

What’s Animal Welfare

Animal Welfare is a science, with objective research approaches to understand the needs of animals.

To accomplish its objectives, Animal Welfare Science has three main approaches:

1 - Animal Feelings: quality of life is measured by the emotional state of the animal, or its feelings. This mean that conditions for acceptable level of welfare are experiencing of comfort, contentment and normal pleasures of life and non-experience of intense pain, fear, stress, hunger, thirsty and other unpleasant sensations.

2 – Biological Functioning: attention on the biological functioning of the animals, avoiding behavioural and physiological abnormalities derived from diseases, injuries, malnutrition, problems on normal growth and reproduction etc.

3 – Natural Life: animals should be allowed, as much as possible, to have a natural living, which means using natural capabilities in reasonably natural environments.

On the 90’s, the Farm Animal Welfare Committee (UK) revised the recommendation on Animal Welfare that the Brambell Committee had reported 25 years before about the basic needs of freedom that every animal should have respected. The result of this revision was the rise of the most important concept in Animal Welfare Science, known as The Five Freedoms:

Freedom from fear and distress
Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain injury and disease
Freedom to express normal behaviour

The 5 Freedoms on the de-listed animals from DWA Act

In a brief analysis of welfare problems that can be faced by the 120 species of wild animals that now can be easily bought as pets, the first question to point out is the lack of the 5th freedom (to express normal behaviour). Wild animals in humanized environments are not allowed to use their natural capabilities. In other words, the concept of natural living is compromised.

Every wild animal which is not in the wild suffer from lack of freedom to express normal behaviour. But we can take the example of tamarins and the other primates to understand it better. In their natural habitats these animals always live in groups. They are very social animals and the offsprings stay with the parents/group for a significant period of time. When these animals become pets, they don’t have the companion of others (and sometimes they are still an offspring, as long as with some species they reach full maturity in their second year).

Problems to express normal behaviour result in stress and this leads to problems of freedom from fear and distress and freedom from discomfort. The Wild cat (Felis silvestris), for instance, is extremely timid. In the wild it avoids approaching human settlements, lives solitarily and holds a territory of about 3 km². It ‘s not difficult to conclude that an animal like this as a pet would be feared and distressed with the regular human contact, and the discomfort caused by this situation not only compromise its wellbeing but also could result in incidents with children and adults. In this case the concept of animal feelings is compromised.

One can say that the freedom from hunger and thirst and the freedom from pain injury and disease would be fulfilled by cautious owners who care for their exotic pet. To a certain extend this can be true in the case of people who respect animals. But the question is that no specific information on main feed needs and on other biological characteristics of each wild animal is provided for the owners, neither by the suppliers nor by the government. The result is a non-intentional inappropriate care that can lead to malnutrition, injuries or physiological abnormalities. In this case the biological functioning concept is compromised.

Taking care of a sloth, for instance, can be very difficult and no specialist care can result in biological dysfunctions for the animal. The sloths are omnivores and leaves consist on their main food source. These animals made extraordinary adaptations to an
arboreal browsing lifestyle and leaves provide very little energy or nutrition and do not digest easily.

As much as two-thirds of a well-fed sloth's body-weight consists of the contents of its stomach and the digestive process can take as long as a month or more to complete. Sloths deal with this by a range of economy measures: they have very low
metabolic rates. How someone who is not an expert on these animals, and without the proper information, would be successful to accompany and understand such complex biological system without causing any harm for the sloth?