Tag Archives: Wildlife Crime

Crackdown on wildlife crime unveiled

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A series of measures have been drawn up aimed at protecting Scotland’s “magnificent” wildlife. BBC reports

The crackdown on crime against birds of prey was unveiled by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse.

Launching the initiative, he condemned the “outdated, barbaric and criminal practices” which he said had put wildlife at risk.

Mr Wheelhouse added: “I am determined to stop illegal persecution of raptors.”

Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland has ordered prosecutors in the wildlife and environmental crime unit to work with Police Scotland to make sure all investigative means possible are being used.

Scottish Natural Heritage has been asked to examine if general licences for trapping and shooting wild birds could be restricted on land where there is good reason to believe crimes have taken place.

And a special group will be established to review how wildlife crimes are treated within the legal system. It will examine whether the penalties imposed are tough enough to protect species such as the golden eagle, hen harriers and red kites.

Further sanctions

Mr Wheelhouse said eradicating crimes against birds of prey “remains a high priority for me and for this government”.

“Outdated, barbaric and criminal practices put at risk some of our most magnificent wildlife and have horrified a wide range of people across Scotland and those who love Scotland,” he said.

“Wildlife crime, and raptor persecution in particular, often takes place in remote locations or in the dark of night.

“Through these new measures, I am keen to maximise the opportunity for offences to be detected and offenders to be tracked down. I am determined to stop illegal persecution of raptors that continues to blight the Scottish countryside.”

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We hope these measures are well targeted to bear down on the organised crime behind much of this activity”

Duncan Orr-EwingRSPB Scotland

Duncan Orr-Ewing, head of species and land management at RSPB Scotland, praised the Scottish government’s “strong leadership” on the issue.

“It is firmly established that the prevailing levels of human killing are having a devastating effect on the populations of some of our native bird of prey species,” he said.

“Recent incidents involving the killing of golden eagles and other iconic bird of prey species have rightly caused public outrage. We support further sanctions to act as a deterrent.

“We hope these measures are well targeted to bear down on the organised crime behind much of this activity.”

But Scottish Land and Estates voiced fears that the government could be moving away from a criminal standard of proof in wildlife crime cases.

Chief executive Douglas McAdam said the organisation “unreservedly” condemned wildlife crime.

However, he said the measures being proposed, such as restricting licences on land where there is a good reason to believe crimes have taken place, would “demand a very robust evidence base” and could result in unfair restrictions on people’s livelihoods.

Mr Orr-Ewing claimed that while many Scottish sporting estates had “a good reputation for giving a home to our native bird of prey species, the recent and historic problem of the killing of protected raptors is largely associated with land managed for commercial driven grouse shooting”.

He said: “This sector appears unwilling in many cases to embrace the change in public expectations, as well as adopting modern, sustainable land management practices.”

Prince Charles calls for war on animal poachers

 

Prince Charles has warned that criminal gangs are turning to animal poaching, an unprecedented slaughter of species that can only be stopped by waging war on the perpetrators, in the latest of a series of increasingly outspoken speeches about the environment. From The Guardian

Addressing a conference of conservationists at St James’s Palace in London, the Prince of Wales announced a meeting of heads of state to take place this autumn in London under government auspices to combat what he described as an emerging, militarised crisis.

“We face one of the most serious threats to wildlife ever, and we must treat it as a battle – because it is precisely that,” said Charles. “Organised bands of criminals are stealing and slaughtering elephants, rhinoceros and tigers, as well as large numbers of other species, in a way that has never been seen before. They are taking these animals, sometimes in unimaginably high numbers, using the weapons of war – assault rifles, silencers, night-vision equipment and helicopters.”

It is the second outspoken speech that Charles has made this month, at a time when he is taking on an increasing number of monarchical duties, after he told a group of forest scientists also at St James’s Palace that corporate lobbyists and climate change sceptics were turning the Earth into a “dying patient”. The Prince of Wales warned that iconic species – which could include rhinoceros, tigers, orangutans and others – could be extinct in the wild within a decade if efforts to protect them were not stepped up. “By urgent, I mean urgent,” he told the dignitaries, who included governmental and United Nations officials as well as NGOs and grassroots activists.

His son, the Duke of Cambridge, added to the plea: “My fear is that one of two things will stop the illegal trade: either we take action to stem the trade, or we will run out of the animals. There is no other outcome possible.”

Charles also stressed the need to deal with the demand for exotic species. In the past, much of the market for tiger parts, rhino horns and ivory was said to be driven by beliefs in traditional Chinese medicine, in which the rare animal parts were believed to have curative or aphrodisiac properties. But the prince dismissed such ideas, saying the trade was in fact about status symbols rather than belief systems. “The bulk of the intended use is no longer for products that can be classified as traditional medicines. Instead, many more people in rapidly growing economies are seeking exotic products that reflect their economic prosperity and status.”

The conference called for celebrities to publicise their outrage and opposition to the trade, and for young people in countries such as China to be educated to reject the demands of their parents for such status-fuelled goods.

Wildlife trade update : Philadelphia art dealer ‘smuggled tonne of ivory’

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From the BBC website

An art dealer has been arrested and accused of smuggling a tonne of African ivory into the US for sale at his Philadelphia store.

Victor Gordon, 68, paid a conspirator to fly to Africa, purchase raw ivory and have it carved to his specifications, prosecutors said.

The conspirator dyed the carvings in order to make them appear old before smuggling them into the US, they said.

Traffic in ivory is tightly restricted under US and international law.

“It’s safe to say dozens of elephants sit before you,” Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told reporters in Philadelphia.

There, officials displayed for reporters intricately carved whole tusks and smaller sculptures and figurines that agents had seized from Mr Gordon’s shop and from his customers.

Elephants are protected under the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Ivory more than 100 years old can be sold can be legally imported into the US.

Two smuggled ivory tusks, in a photo provided by the US attorney for the Eastern District of New YorkThe government hopes to seize all the allegedly smuggled ivory

“The amount of the elephant ivory allegedly plundered in this case is staggering and highlights the seriousness of the charged crimes,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said.

“We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations.”

Ms Lynch’s office described the seizure of the ivory in the case as one of the largest in US history.

According to an indictment filed in federal court in New York, Mr Gordon paid an unidentified co-conspirator $32,000 (£19,500) to undertake several trips to purchase “raw” ivory in central and west Africa between May 2006 and April 2009.

The co-conspirator had the ivory carved and stained to disguise its newness, then smuggled it into the US through JFK International Airport in New York.

It was then delivered to Mr Gordon’s retail store in Philadelphia, according to the indictment.

In April 2009, federal fish and wildlife officers seized hundreds of ivory tusks and carvings from Mr Gordon’s shop in Philadelphia.

As the investigation progressed over the next year-and-a-half, agents seized more pieces from his customers in the states of New York, Missouri, Kansas, California and Missouri.

Mr Gordon was arrested on Tuesday and charged with 10 counts of violating US anti-ivory smuggling laws, including statutes aimed at protecting endangered species and enforcing the CITES.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.

LINK 27/7/2011 : http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/nature/us-tusk-smuggling-operation-cracked-2326580.html

Wildlife Trade : Russia Seizes Animal Parts

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The International Herald Tribune reports on the trade that literally killing creatures  

MOSCOW — The 26 elk lips were just the tip of the pile. The items the Russian customs agents reported seizing Tuesday were exotic even by the standards of Russia’s border with China, where wildlife smuggling is rampant: 1,041 bear paws, lynx fur, unspecified claw parts and five tusks from the extinct woolly mammoth.

Officials said they discovered the cargo after a dog alerted them to the contents in the bed of a Chinese driver’s seemingly empty truck. On closer examination, officials found a secret compartment with the cache of contraband.

“The illegal cargo weighing almost 1.4 tons was detained by border guards and customs officials” a statement explained. The items were individually wrapped, the statement said, though it did not say if the compartment was refrigerated. The elk lips alone weighed 143 pounds.

Smuggling is generally blossoming in Russia’s Far East. The long border with China, closed for decades, is now open for travel and trade.

“China is a vacuum cleaner for Siberian wildlife,” said Aleksei L. Vaisman, a senior coordinator for Traffic Europe-Russia, which is sponsored by the conservation group WWF, which monitors trade in wild animals. The largest cache of bear paws he knew of previously was 787 paws (one paw shy of 197 full sets of four).

As Russian border agents using dogs have become more adept at catching small-time traffickers, smugglers have been compelled to risk large shipments, he said. The large number reported Tuesday (from about 260 bears) were most likely accumulated by brokers who bought them from hunters over the winter, he said. A set of four brings the hunters about $50.

Bear paws are a ritual dish for Chinese, elk lips a delicacy. Also smuggled daily, for food or medicine, are bear gallbladders, frogs, deer antlers and the genitals of spotted deer. The bones of highly endangered Amur tigers are sought for their aphrodisiac qualities.

The mammoth ivory poses an unusual set of legal and ethical issues.

The tusks are more abundant than many people in the West realize. Encased in an upper layer of Siberia’s permafrost are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths that lived from 3,600 to 400,000 years ago. The parts surface in the spring thaw across vast stretches of Russia’s far north and are routinely collected. Most are exported — legally — to China, South Korea and Japan to be carved into personal stamps used in place of signatures on documents.

Russia, though, requires an export license. This is intended to ensure that traders send tusks with possible scientific value — like prehistoric slaughter marks or signs of ancient disease — to researchers. Generally, conservationists concerned about the illegal ivory trade from Africa into Asia encourage buyers to turn to the legal trade from Siberia of ivory from mammoths.

Still, it was unclear how the tusks were hidden in the truck intercepted at a border crossing in the town of Blagoveshchensk or how the smuggler had obtained them. The tusks are often cut up and sold by the kilogram.

Wildlife trade stopped in its tracks : Thai Customs seize hundreds of smuggled turtles

 

Live turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. The Guardian reports

Thai Customs have found 451 turtles worth 1 million baht (£20,000) stashed in suitcases offloaded from a passenger flight from Bangladesh, in the latest seizure of live animals at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.

Turtles of varying sizes worth around 2,000 baht apiece in Thai markets, and seven false gavials – a type of freshwater crocodile worth 10,000 baht each,were found on Thursday in small bags packed into cases after authorities received a tip-off that a known trafficker was travelling to Thailand.

The alleged trafficker, a Bangladeshi national, did not collect the luggage and fled on arrival in Bangkok, customs officials said.

The discovery was the biggest since September last year, when 1,140 turtles were found by Customs in a single day. A further 218 were seized a month later.

Customs officials at Suvarnabhumi often seize reptiles and small animals in luggage.

They found a two-month old tiger cub in a bag last August, which was concealed by stuffed tiger toys and bound for Iran.

Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of Thailand’s Customs department, said it was likely the turtles were destined for Bangkok’s Chatujak market, a sprawling mass of 11,000 stalls and shops that has a dedicated pet section where endangered species are sometimes sold.

Although Thailand has been at the forefront of a regional effort to combat wildlife trafficking, the country’s multiple airports, sea ports and road network make it a major transit point for other destinations.

source : http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/02/thai-customs-turtles-suitcase-smuggled

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