A biologist who runs a nature reserve in Itapajé, Ceará state (northeast of Brazil) has been threatened by hunters who want to murder animals in the protected area.
Hermann Redies, 63, has reported to the police messages with violent threats sent via WhatsApp.
Hermann bought the land, now called Reserva Mãe da Lua, in 2006. The area covers 764 hectares that are home to a wide array of animals, including monkeys, deers, boars, wild cats, armadillos and 170 species of birds, some of whom threatened with extinction.
The reserve harbors a diverse flora as well, with 296 species.
The biologist said that until the first semester of 2019, the average number of hunting crimes was two or three per year. Since October, it soared to 2 or 3 incidents per week.
“For a long time, I could keep hunting under control. We have placed a warning sign and it has been pierced with 35 stabbings and a gunshot. These are threats, someone is telling you they could do the same to you,” he says.
One of his most recent encounters with criminals skulking around the reserve took place on December 20, when he heard the barking of dogs. When he approached the spot where the barking was coming from, the hunter fled with his three dogs.
Hermann took to Facebook to ask for help in identifying the criminal and shared his WhatsApp number. He did receive reports but also threats, including from a man in a WhatsApp group called ‘Francisco Caçador’, who wrote: “You continue to give us trouble. Today you chased away a friend of mine. Now, if you are a real man, come to the same place and I’ll be there.”
The criminal added he would leave an automatic weapon that could be triggered by a simple touch of the wire that sets off the mechanism that would be pointed at the pathways.
Besides the message, the criminal sent pictures and videos of dead animals, hunter dogs and a fire with animal flesh being barbecued in it.
Hermann believes the WhatsApp hunting group has six members, most of whom live in the area. He believes other groups also hunt in the area. He said he is worried and takes the threats seriously.
The property was transformed into a nature reserve in 2009, thanks to a decree by conservation entity Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade (ICMBio).
As a reserve, it has federal protected area status. The reserve status aims at helping preserve biological diversity, the development of scientific research and ecotourism/education activities.
Hermann monitors the reserve by foot and has the support of the state police and the federal environmental agency (Ibama).
“I chose this land because it is so well preserved, and also because the rule of law seemed to work here,” he recounts.