Merciless Markets

How Wildlife Trafficking Threatens Mexico’s Biodiversity

The Center for Biological Diversity’s investigators conducted a four-month, undercover investigation in 2022 into wildlife trafficking in Mexico — and what we uncovered is chilling. Read our report in English and Spanish.

Here’s why this report is important: Mexico’s unparalleled biological diversity faces a profound threat from wildlife trafficking. From jaguars and sloths to sea cucumbers and giant totoaba fish, imperiled animals across Mexico are being captured illegally from the wild and sold for profit. Many are kept in cruel confinement, and death rates are high.



Our investigation included sting operations on social media, visits to public markets and a series of interviews with law enforcement officials and wildlife experts. Our key findings:

  • A robust digital marketplace, including on Facebook, allows wildlife to be routinely bought and sold illegally without limits or regulations. Howler monkeys, crocodiles, sloths, big cats and parrots, among others, are traded online.
  • Wildlife trafficking in Mexico is out of control. A lax government system is overwhelmed by the scope of the problem, with little political will to address it.
  • Most illegal transactions are carried out via social media. Many people are involved in this illicit activity because anyone can create a false profile and put plants or animals up for sale without permits.
  • Mexico’s conservation legislation is implicated because legally established Management Units for the Conservation of Wildlife (UMAs) and Farms or Facilities that Manage Wildlife (PIMVS) are part of the black market in wildlife. These facilities, which are regulated by the government, are increasingly likely to sell species that are not covered by their registration.


The Center’s investigation also sheds light on the need for strong action to combat the illegal trade in wildlife, including the following steps:

  • Mexico’s Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) must invest time and resources to review the files of permits granted, to revoke the registrations of all permittees who facilitate trade in unauthorized species, or do not provide required annual reports, inventories and management programs.
  • The General Wildlife Law that regulates UMAs and PIMVS needs to be thoroughly reviewed, because these facilities play key roles in illegal wildlife trafficking.
  • The government of Mexico and companies such as Meta should develop collaboration agreements to combat illegal traffic on social media and request support from the Scientific Division of the National Guard to detect illegal activities through the internet.
  • The Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa) must resume intelligence work to fight against illegal trafficking of species, arrest leaders of organized gangs and dismantle warehouses.
  • An ambitious program of inspection and surveillance should be launched to eradicate the illegal trafficking of species in public markets and street markets, as well as ports, airports and borders.
  • A social media campaign must be launched to dissuade users from buying wildlife as pets.
  • New regulations are needed to prevent wildlife trafficking and irresponsible possession of wildlife as pets.


Read the full report in English or en español.

Check out our press releases to learn more about the Center's actions to fight wildlife trafficking.

Photo of jaguar