Brazil will let hunters shoot endangered jaguars, parrots and monkeys in rainforests under new law, warn conservation experts

Jane Dalton

Trophy-hunters may be allowed to shoot jaguars and other endangered wildlife “for sport” in Brazil’s critically important rainforests, conservationists are warning.

Parrots, otters and monkeys could also be killed or captured alive – even in nature reserves – in the country that is the world’s richest in biodiversity, according to opponents of the plan.

A bill that would legalise hunting, breeding and selling animals could mean commercial hunting grounds being set up for the first time in more than half a century, critics say.

They fear private hunters would be allowed to either shoot their targets dead or sell them to wildlife centres and zoos under the plan being considered by President Jair Bolsonaro's government.

It’s estimated at least 1,100 species in Brazil – home to the Amazon rainforests – are already threatened with extinction from deforestation, human expansion and poaching.

And the country has lost more forest habitats than any other country since 2001 – 1.3 million hectares last year alone, research shows.

The bill, which repeals a ban on professional hunting, went before Brazil’s parliament in 2016 but was archived in the face of anger by conservationists.

However, under Mr Bolsonaro, who has loosened a raft of environmental protections since taking office this year, it has now been revived.

“If approved, this project will bring a huge setback for Brazilian biodiversity. The slaughter of animals may even take place in protected areas,” warned Michel Santos of WWF-Brazil.

The Rainforest Rescue non-profit group said: “Brazilian environmentalists have criticised the bill sharply, describing hunting as cruel, immoral and a medieval ritual.

“Legalised hunting would only cater to hunters’ lust for killing and boost the trade in threatened species.

“The bill also plays into the hands of the Brazilian arms industry and arms exporters, particularly those in the United States.”

But Valdir Colatto, the MP who first drafted the proposal, hit back at critics, saying 30 per cent of profits from game reserves would go towards recovering and protecting wildlife.

The bill sought to regulate an area that has no rules, he said, preventing smuggling, illegal slaughter, mistreatment and the extinction of wild and exotic animals.

It bans hunting of endangered animals in reserves, Mr Colatto added.

Slaughter would be authorised only for traditional communities that depend on hunting for survival and to control invasions of animals threatening human health and economic damage, he said.

But scientists insist any hunting in Brazil would compromise the health of natural ecosystems and cultivated land – and ultimately affect our own quality of life, Rainforest Rescue said.

“Wildlife is crucial for both natural ecosystems and crops: by dispersing seeds it helps regenerate forests, maintains an ecological equilibrium and helps keep pests and diseases under control.”

Humane Society International/Brazil is also lobbying against the plan.

If the bill is approved by the government’s environment commission, it will go to the senate and deputies of the national congress.