Further statement on the Cairo seizure of primates
In September 2001, the Egyptian Customs seized a gorilla and a chimpanzee following their arrival at Cairo without the necessary CITES permits. The Egyptian veterinary service decided to dispose of the animals by drowning for fear of health risks.
A large number of individuals and organizations understandably expressed concern regarding the manner in which the incident was dealt with. I contacted the authorities in Egypt and the Minister of Agriculture ordered an investigation of the case.
I have now been advised by Egyptian authorities of the outcome of this investigation.
The woman who was in possession of the animals was handed over to the Police and the case is subject to legal proceedings by the District Attorney Office. A formal letter was sent by the CITES Management Authority of Egypt to the airline on which the woman and animals travelled from Nigeria to Egypt. The airline has been made aware of the provisions of the Convention and of the Ministerial Decrees of Egypt relating to illegal trade and importation of endangered species. The airline has been requested to distribute the information to its offices worldwide.
Egypt has passed information on the case to the authorities in Nigeria, who have also started an investigation.
Lastly, the authorities in Egypt have collated information relating to institutions and rescue centres that may be appropriate places to transfer seized and confiscated live animals to in future.
I am grateful to Egypt for its response and to those persons who expressed an interest in this matter. I am also pleased that the involvement of the CITES Secretariat appears to have helped in resolving some of the aspects that were causing concern.
An interesting idea put forward by a number of animal welfare organizations has been for them to develop guidelines for the humane disposal of confiscated animals and to collect and make available data on rescue centres and their ability to house animals. Obviously the CITES Secretariat would fully cooperate in making this kind of information available to the Parties to the Convention.