When George Pakenham spotted a passenger-less stretch limo outside a Manhattan restaurant with its engine running, he decided he’d had enough and approached the driver to ask him to turn off the engine while waiting.
On a Monday in February 2013, Carlos Pages pored over paperwork that accompanied a huge shipment of animals that had just arrived at Miami International Airport on a flight from Paraguay. The crates and boxes contained a wide assortment of species—some 3,500 toads, frogs, tarantulas and snakes. Although the animals arrived in pretty good shape and everything looked okay on paper, something wasn’t quite right, remembers Pages, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) inspector. Then an email tip came in, informing him that the documents were forged. “Counterparts in Paraguay verified that the permits were fraudulent, and we seized the animals,” he says.
Eleven days later, the animals were loaded back on a plane, headed home. En route 204 of them perished. Back in Paraguay, the survivors were examined, quarantined, and the healthy ones were ultimately released back into the wild.
I held my breath as I watched the first blur of brown fur dash into the forest on short little legs, bushy tail streaming behind. As the last of the fishers bounded into the forest, our group let out a quiet cheer.
We’re thrilled to be widening the scope of our work to include more of the incredible biodiversity found in the American southeast. But where to start? We wanted to be sure that our work would help to protect the species and places that are most at risk – so we turned to the data.