History of Geoffroy’s Tamarins, Saguinus geoffroyi, at Lincoln Park Zoological Gardens, 1974–1985
The early to mid-seventies were an unsettled time in the Republic of Panama. National parks were not yet fully established, and those areas designated as reserves or protected areas provided little more than paper protection. RENARE, Direccion Nacional de Recursos Naturales Renovables, the Panamanian governmental agency responsible for wildlife and natural resources, was badly understaffed and poorly fiinded. The need for conservation efforts was well recognized, the mechanism to start it was established, but the resources to carry it out were essentially nonexistent. Animal dealers were legally operating in the Republic, some with good credentials and excellent facilities, others with no objective other than to make the most money in the shortest possible time. This latter group showed no regard for the animals in their care; the animals were treated as a commodity to be exploited whenever and however possible. The sale of birds and small mammals was open business in the public market. Roadside vendors of small parrots and young mammals, as well as iguanas, were not an uncommon site. There was a well-established system of animal collectors, most operating with their base in Panama and others operating both in Colombia and Panama. Animals from Colombia not uncommonly found their way into Panama and from there into the United States, western Europe, and Japan. The export of mammal hides and large quantities of crocodilian skins was well known and clearly visible, even to an untrained biologist. Wildlife was being exploited at every turn and usually not by Panamanian nationals.
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