|credit: NPC via Mongabay.com|
Despite that selling wildlife is strictly prohibited under Peruvian law, the market sold on average 42 animals a week, some of which are endangered species. The investigators discovered a wide range of diseases in the market ranging from yellow fever and hemorrhagic fever. Some of these were found in monkeys which could easily spread to humans because of our shared genetic heritage. One of the reasons officials belated decided to act is because of the threat the market posed to public health. Vendors show a extreme lack of human care for their living inventory. The market also served as a sort of callous showcase for animals secretly stored elsewhere in the city. At least four warehouses were known to researchers who avoided entering them to preserve their undercover work. It was clear to the researchers from their 'body counts' that corrupt officials were allowing some animals to 'disappear' into a shadow world of rapacious wildlife merchants who business it is to provide any rare species to a willing buyer. The fact that Bellavista was allowed to operate in the open on municipal land for over twenty years speaks testaments about the integrity of Peru's officials as well as the attitude of Peruvians towards their wild heritage. Although the market was destroyed in the middle of the night, no vendors were arrested.
A new market has been opened, but vendors must be registered, comply with rules, and the market is covered with a single entrance making illegal sales more difficult. The overdue destruction of Bellavista is a welcomed development, but Peru's participation in a robust, illegal and international wildlife trade is by no means at an end. For pictures of some the rescued animals go to Mongabay.