Wild birds and mammals return to the Mayan Biosphere Reserve after being rescued from illegal trafficking

Humane Society International / Latin America

Eduardo Cabrera

PETEN, Guatemala—Multiple mammals and birds have been released back into the Guatemalan rainforest after being rescued and rehabilitated from incidents of illegal trafficking and cruelty.

Asociacion Rescate y Conservacion de Vida Silvestre, with the support of Humane Society International/Latin America, released the animals in the Maya Biosphere Reserve, a protected area that spans 13.3 million acres in Peten. This joint project aims to tackle wildlife trafficking for the pet trade and other human activities that negatively impact wild animals.

The group of animals included one anteater (Tamandua mexicana), two raccoons (Procyon lotor), one margay (Lepardus wiedii) and two royal toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus). The anteater, margay and toucans are all protected by legislation in Guatemala as endangered.

Both raccoons were rescued as juveniles back in August 2023. They were treated at the ARCAS rescue center before being moved to larger rehabilitation enclosures. These enclosures replicate a wild environment as closely as possible, ensuring the raccoons’ safety and well-being. The adult toucans arrived separately in 2023, allowing them to retain their wild behavior and quickly advance in their rehabilitation process, which ensures that animals can survive in the wild by hunting for food, hiding from predators and learning how to fly, jump or run.

Andrea Borel, executive director of Humane Society International/Latin America said: “The capture of wild animals for the national and international pet trade is a real problem in Guatemala. These animals are often kept in cramped, inadequate conditions not suitable for their species and denied the ability to exhibit their natural behaviors, which can further cause them physical and psychological distress. By supporting and working with our local partner, ARCAS, we are able to help animals regain their freedom as well as increase their wild populations to ensure future breeding in their natural forest habitat where they belong. We also work together on awareness raising to urge citizens not to buy products from wildlife and to report any such suspicious activity to the authorities.”

ARCAS director Fernando Martinez said: “Our mission is to reinforce existing wildlife populations, to prevent the extinction of species and thus ensure that there are healthy populations capable of adapting and reproducing in their natural habitat. We are proud that our rescue center is a pioneer in endemic species rehabilitation and release in our region, and we appreciate HSI/Latin America’s support.”

ARCAS carries out the physical, medical and behavioral rehabilitation of victims of wildlife trafficking and exploitative human activities, under strict scientific management standards. HSI/Latin America and ARCAS have been working together in wildlife protection and conservation in Guatemala since 2007. The release was conducted with the authorization of Guatemalan authorities from the National Council for Protected Areas, or CONAP.


Media contact: Grettel Delgadillo: gdelgadillo@hsi.org

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