other arrests!

Doug Yanega dyanega at mono.icb.ufmg.br
Tue Sep 23 13:24:15 EDT 1997

Liz Day wrote:

>>I, too, am against commercialized exploitation of Leps and other fauna.  It is
>>very bad for my hobby.  But you haven't made an exception for
>>non-exploitive or
>>non-commercial collecting of common species by amateur hobbyists like me.  Can
>>you explain?  Can you justify?
>>To be on the safe side. If for no other reason than the only assurance
>>anyone has that you are NOT a commercial dealer is your word.
>Not true, the collector could show the authorities what s/he took before
>leaving the country.

How on earth are the authorities supposed to know what is or is not a
commercially valuable specimen? Before anything like this could ever
happen, you would have to convince a country to hire professional
entomologists to act as inspectors, AND to pay them for the 27 days a month
they don't get a single thing to inspect. Hardly worth it, no?

>It really does seem odd to me that Brazil doesn't want people taking
>*any* butterflies at all.  Like if someone from France came to visit
>and collected some monarchs and sulfurs and stuff here, what dif could
>it possibly make?

Obviously, it depends on what they intend to do with the material. It
doesn't have to make a difference *ecologically* for such a thing to be
unethical. It's really not much different from just the basic "customs
declaration" principle - it's not legal to go to some other country, take
or buy things, then bring them home and sell them at a profit without
giving the host country its share. There are limits to ANY sort of transfer
of goods or funds across international borders, and some countries extend
this principle to biological goods. Suppose I decided to go around the
Brazilian countryside, gathering bag upon bag of Brazil nuts and the like,
then carted them all back to the US and sold them? Does it really matter
that I haven't hurt the ecology in the process, or is there just *maybe*
something else about it that is inherently wrong? (and how, as above, am I
supposed to demonstrate to a customs official that the 100 pounds of Brazil
nuts I'm toting are for my own private consumption only?) Or suppose it's
100 pounds of raw gemstones I dug out of a local cave? How are the
authorities supposed to distinguish worthless quartz from precious opal,
etc.? Reduce the problem to its essence - unapproved international
transport of potentially valuable commodities - instead of thinking of
butterflies as a special case, and you'll see it's a much bigger issue.
        If you want things to be relaxed, and still protect everyone's
rights (including the animals and plants) you don't have many options -
either make the rules more formalized, so all commercial dealing must be
up-front and subject to appropriate economic controls (as I suggested in my
last posting - with severe penalties for violations, of course), or totally
eliminate the market for wild-caught plants and animals so there is no
economic incentive for exploitation (fat chance). Sure, it's possible to
sit, brainstorm, and design ways to solve all these problems, maybe even
cost-effective ways, but unless the plan is *practical* - meaning people
would actually be willing and able to implement it as designed - we're just
spinning our wheels (which we are, anyway, unless any of us are in a
position to change the laws). For a problem like this one, even something
as simple as public resistance to extra inspection time in the airport
could kill any otherwise reasonable plan. Maybe other folks here are more
well-versed in the history of things like CITES, and can evaluate what is
and is not possible in the way of affecting international legislation on
traffic in natural artifacts, but I can't imagine change (or consensus) is
too easy to achieve.


Doug Yanega    Depto. de Biologia Geral, Instituto de Ciencias Biologicas,
Univ. Fed. de Minas Gerais, Cx.P. 486, 30.161-970 Belo Horizonte, MG   BRAZIL
phone: 031-448-1223, fax: 031-44-5481  (from U.S., prefix 011-55)
  "There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness
        is the true method" - Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chap. 82

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