Update on ape trafficking issues - Guinea/West and Central Africa
- (from an email) I attended the recent CITES Standing Committee meeting as a media representative but I am also part of the steering committee of the Ol Pejeta Pegas project – headed by Dan Stiles - and would like to respond in that capacity.
I do not believe the great ape trade is just another wildlife trade issue. When it comes to CITES Parties trading live, wild sourced, CITES Appendix I listed species I believe the great ape trade to be at the forefront. It is as detrimental to the overall wild population of the wild population as any trade in CITES Appendix I listed species.
The great ape trade in recent years has involved pre-meditated circumvention of key CITES Convention provisions, resulted in approximately 10 gorillas being executed at the China end and well over a hundred other apes being commercially exploited in China in breach of further CITES provisions (with thousands having been killed in the wild to source those that were exported)
As far as the CITES and the SC65 meeting in Geneva is concerned, could you confirm:
- How many working groups were created at SC65?
- How often working groups requested by Parties and / or NGO's were previously lumped with an existing group without any consultation or vote?
- How often have such additions to groups been created without interested parties being given an option to join?
- How often has there been a scenario where the attending parties, having expressed an interest in such a working group, were not asked to join?
- In how many cases has the chair of such a group decided to invite parties who were not involved in the corresponding discussion to join that group whilst excluding parties who did express an interest in joining?
This to me amounted to a railroading process, counterproductive to the objectives of having balanced working groups. We firmly believe that we have more detailed information on the illegal trade in great apes than either the IUCN SSC Primate Specialist Group or GRASP.
I have in the past accused the CITES Secretariat of covering up major aspects of this trade and would at this stage like to repeat this allegation (see also the attached report). The non-event that was SC65 as far as great apes are concerned and the exclusion of those with key evidence, from the only CITES working group even remotely having great apes within its remit, will appear to outsiders as nothing less than a cover up of a cover up!?!
The approach you propose below of adding two establishment actors with the mandate 'to not pick up great ape issues more generally' will, in my opinion, deserve the above classification.
I suggest the Chair of the Standing Committee reconsider and that a specialist working group be set up dealing with the great ape trade exclusively, considering all of the evidence including that relating to the apparent cover up.
Your proposed approach to dealing with one of the most serious CITES infractions presently on the table will do nothing to clarify any aspect of this sorry saga nor help prevent similar infractions in future.
- (from an email) I see from the report of the WG of Special
Reporting Requirements that Great Apes are not even included. I find this
odd, considering GRASP has reported that there is a serious problem with
great ape trafficking and Decision 16.67 on Great Apes proposed that they be
included in an illegal trade reporting mechanism.
I don't know how PEGAS can contribute to a great apes section of illegal trade reporting, but after reading your report, particularly Thursday afternoon, it looks like there is still quite a bit of work to be done. I would just like to offer our assistance in future work on the matter and hope that you will include us in the working group.
I attach a briefing document that can inform you of our perspective on the issue of great apes.
- (from emails)Now all the right words are in place and the question is when will the respective parties move on to concrete action. We have detailed information about the illegal exports from Guinea, Mali, Syria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and DRC and the corresponding imports of chimps, gorillas, bonobos to Armenia, China, Russia, Egypt the UAE . They will potentially live in miserable commercial settings for another 50 years . There are dedicated ape sanctuaries in Africa which could offer them a second chance. What is missing is the political will for the above parties to take this to the investigative level, prosecutions, confiscations and repatriations. Without this aspect of enforcement the CITES media release will be empty words.
When will we move from good intention to what should be happening under Article VIII of the convention ?
- Thanks for the feedback. We will in due course do a transcript of our interview and send it to you for review. I believe it has aspects which would lend themselves for follow up discussions and actions.
Overall I am totally convinced that the most effective way to prevent further incidents of ape trafficking – and that of other high values CITES I species – will be to get parties to implement Article VIII of the convention. It will send a stronger message to the traders, the importers, exporters and the corrupt officials signing the permits than any other CITES enforcement action I can think off.
That should involve past well documented and evidenced cases such as the gorillas and chimps in Egypt, in Armenia, in China, in the UAE and Russia. The apes in this context are just the tip of the iceberg.
So an effective post mortem of past infractions will be the very best preventive approach – in my opinion.
- The DRC CITES Management Authority (MA) told us in an e-mail that they had heard from a representative at the CITES Secretariat that there were no bonoboâ€™s in Armenia and third parties should stop sensationalizing this issue
- We delivered the photographic evidence of at least one bonobo remaining, and information concerning another one having died shortly after arrival.
- The NCP Interpol office of the DRC also informed us that Interpol Armenia had stated there were no bonobo in Armenia
- The CITES MA Armenia informed us that they had not issued any import permits for any CITES I primates (there have been large quantities of import of CITES II primates from the DRC into Armenia). The same facility which illegally holds the bonobo also holds four young chimps and other CITES I listed species
- The NCP Interpol DRC stated in a TV interview and in writing that they would demand the return of the bonobo
- The latest communication indicates that they have done so but ignored the 4 chimpanzees and all the chimps illegally exported to China of which a large number must have originated in the DRC
- Chinese press statements (see below) indicate that Shanghai Wild Animal Park has received more baby chimpanzees from Africa in early 2013 (most likely just after the CITES COP in Bangkok)
- The CITES trade data for 2011 shows the export and re-export of 4 chimpanzees from Syria to China, declared as captive born and 4 from Sierra Leone declared as WILD born plus another one also declared with a W (source code). The CITES MA of Sierra Leone at the Bangkok meeting agreed to provide copies of these permits which then did not happen after a very direct intervention by a member of staff from the Secretariat.
- The latest CITES trade data published for 2012 show a further 4 imports of captive born chimpanzees from Syria and another 4 from Chad all to China, all with source code C.
- The CITES MA of Guinea provided us with a copy of a letter he had sent to the CITES Secretariat in which he referred to a meeting at the Conference of Parties in Doha in 2010 where a meeting had taken place between the MA of Guinea, China, and a representative of the CITES Secretariat. This meeting was supposedly to discuss all the illegal ape exports from Guinea to China (shipped with falsified Guinean permits but with apes coming mostly from the DRC)
- This was followed by the CITES mission to Guinea in November 2011 where the same issue was addressed in a lengthy report
- The shipments then appear to have dropped in 2011 to 4 captive born chimpanzees being shipped from Guinea to China (in 2010 it was still 61) but then the shipments from Syria and Sierra Leone started to which in 2012 Chad was added, with indications that more chimps arrived in Shanghai from Africa in 2013.
- In the case of Syria, the investigation of ape trafficking into Egypt led to the discovery of a well-known animal dealing family where one brother operates from Damascus. He offered our investigator chimps ex Egypt (after the Secretariat closed this case at the 2010 Doha meeting) but with Syrian CITES export permits. These included a wide range of fabricated data as was the case with the Guinean permits. The CITES Secretariat was informed of this.
- Then there is the case of the gorilla exports from Guinea to China (2010) with more gorillas being offered by a company based in several locations in SE Asia called Asian Dragon Trading. This same company later offered a wide range of CITES II primates in a special package via Syria. Video imagery showed that these were again mostly originating from the DRC (with the gorillas most likely also having originated from the East of the DRC)
- Again we informed the CITES Secretariat of this new offer by this dealership and the link to Syria prior to the 2012 shipments.
- It is not surprising that another war affected country like Chad has now been added to the mix as far as the dealers in question (Guinean/DRC based) falsifying original permits or getting corrupt CITES officials to sign off on permits containing mostly fabricated data.
- Other Guinea based dealers have recently offered to export chimpanzees via Senegal, Ivory Coast and Mali (with supposedly some kind of CITES permits or packaged together with CITES II primates and shipped with the corresponding documents).
Copyright © 2016 KarlAmmann.Com All Rights Reserved
All photographs © 2016 Karl Ammann
website by the Goldray Consulting Group