At National Geographic, Rene Ebersole reports on how hummingbirds (who are in decline due to habitat loss and climate change) are the victims in increasing illegal trade in their tiny, dead, feathered bodies to make Mexican love potions called chuparosas. Birds are captured in nets and even shot with tiny bits of ammunition to fuel the growing demand. Perhaps the biggest problem? Mexico doesn’t think the illegal trade is a threat to the birds.
“This is the honey jar,” she tells viewers while introducing the ingredients on her workbench: photographs of two would-be lovers, a piece of paper with their names written on it three times, a small glass jar—and a dead hummingbird. She rolls the tiny animal inside the photographs and wraps the cigar-shaped bundle with hot-pink yarn nearly the same shade as her long, fake fingernails.
Showing only her arms and lower body on camera, she shields her identity as she swaddles the package in a sarcophagus of tacky flypaper, dips it in cinnamon spice, squeezes it into the jar, and spritzes it with perfumes and oils—pheromones—“so he’ll stay sexually attracted.” Restless balm “so he’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, I need to call her.’” Sleep oil “so he’ll be like a zombie.” Attraction oil “so he’ll be like, ‘Goddamn, you so beautiful, you so fine.’” Dominating oil “so you dominate his thoughts.”
As an entrepreneurial saleswoman, she tells viewers that any hard-to-find ingredients used in her creations are available for customers. For example, on her website a dead hummingbird—in life a feisty little iridescent green creature with rust-colored tail feathers—is $50. Buying a ready-made honey jar is another option. In an email she quoted me $500.
Humberto Berlanga, Mexico’s coordinator of the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, an international forum of government agencies and private organizations, is a member of the delegation. Berlanga doesn’t regard hummingbird trafficking as a high priority. “I suspect the market is not too big, and I don’t think it’s affecting any endangered species, but we don’t have the data,” he said. “Those are my general impressions. People are illegally catching and using the birds, but there’s not enough enforcement to limit and stop this practice—it’s sad, but true.”