Conservationists have long pointed to the deforestation being caused by wealthy North American families splurging on exotic African wildlife, yet their argument took on added urgency in recent months when news broke that Amazonian forests in southeast Brazil were being destroyed to make way for luxury SUVs.
The vehicles, which are aimed at wealthy families who want to vacation on the high seas with a sense of adventure (champagne water and coconut shells included), are called Amazon-branded SUVs and appear to be stocked with a wolf pelt, an electric deer, ivory-leaf wine glasses, a hanging sarong-covered bird table, rubber ducky fish, and a glass with shark teeth on it.
Each makes their way to a country that wants to display their wealth by cultivating the wildlife. The region’s main forest is being appropriated for these premium SUVs in addition to beefed-up oil production and fertilizer mining operations, according to conservationist group WildAid.
Leading up to the announcement, one South American firm that sells the vehicles said they were produced in Canada, while others, including the United States, were the suppliers. Some were sold at prices up to $550,000. Amazon is made by Greentech International, which is based in Ontario and now markets the vehicles online in 20 countries. However, a spokesman for the company, which does not have a stock of the vehicles in Canada, says they are made in another country and could not disclose the name.
The SUVs’ arrival in Brazil’s wild forest also begs the question of why the United States and European market is being used instead of one with an actual Amazonian native reserve to sustain native flora and fauna. Greentech did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
“We do not have any comment at this time,” said Andrea Jeffries, a representative of the company, who added that Greentech is “open to discussing ideas on social responsibility” and said it would be “diligent” in keeping in contact with conservationists.
According to data published in a recent report by WildAid, skinning down endangered species for leather in luxury vehicles is creating an industry “that is almost exclusively economic exploitation of this natural resource, without the cultural or ethical implications of such exploitation.”
In an email, Jeffrey Kilburg, the group’s founder, says that the industry also is saddling individual company’s with an ecological burden that shows “corporate greed and plain stupidity, not to mention a lack of respect for species.”
“All automakers are asking for is the opportunity to produce one of these extraordinary pieces of light, luxury, and well-cushioned engineering,” Kilburg wrote. “But while they’ve profited handsomely from the process, they’ve done nothing to assist the indigenous people who’ve been depleted from their land by wealth-creation patterns.”
Now conservationists are mobilizing to do what they can to deter the production of these luxury vehicles and preserve the Amazonian forests.
One of the most visible examples is a Colombian campaign using the term “wolf carpeting” to describe the Amazonian habitat being exploited by Amazon-branded SUVs. In the latest video, created by Latin America’s green movement group Ecobooks, the ravages of the animals’ killing on native wildlife are almost impossible to miss. A montage of a few dozen images portrays skinned wild birds, one blackened swan, a pack of bleeding wild dogs, and a skeleton of a moose.
One Brazilian state called Tocantins, which has the most Amazonian forest on the planet, has already enacted a ban on Amazon-branded SUVs for the first time, according to Center for Amazon Conservation (Centro Climático Aproso), a non-profit group devoted to protecting Brazil’s largest rainforest.
Earlier this year, the tourism board in Brazil, Mundial, posted a video about the illegal and unethical hunting, smuggling, and trade of Amazon wildlife on its YouTube channel.
Amazon leather, sourced from an endangered species, includes the skins of grey wolves, caribou, wildcats, and black bears, says Kristy Graham, an Australia-based zoologist who has worked for years on conserving Amazon mammals