Statement on the Cairo seizure of primates

Statement on the Cairo seizure of primates

The Convention is an agreement between nations on how to regulate trade in certain wild animals and plants in ways that do not threaten the survival of these species. These ways involve common procedures and safeguards, and these are supported by advice and instructions from the member countries (known as CITES Parties). CITES Parties can, and do, develop the many measures, provisions, instructions and advice that are needed to ensure that trade in wild species listed in CITES Appendices occurs in a manner that will not result in harm to live animals, in cases where trade is allowed.

The provisions and procedures of CITES do protect thousands of live animals from cruel and inhumane treatment during transport every day. For instance, the Convention requires that any live specimens in trade be prepared and shipped so as to minimize the risk of injury, damage to health or cruel treatment. Detailed guidelines have been adopted for the humane transport of animal specimens, and the disposal of confiscated animals. However, the Convention and its many provisions, including those concerning safe and humane handling of live animals, can only be implemented and enforced through national laws.

I should like to thank everyone who wrote to the Secretariat to express their concern over events involving the seizure of a chimpanzee and a gorilla at Cairo airport last September.

Upon hearing the news report, I have contacted the Egyptian authorities for information. They have confirmed the drowning of animals that were in the possession of a known wildlife smuggler of Nigerian-Egyptian origin. The Egyptian Minister of Agriculture has ordered a thorough investigation of the case and of how the decision to drown the animals was reached. The CITES Secretariat will be informed of the outcome of this investigation. The Secretariat is requesting that the Nigerian CITES authorities investigate the matter and contact the Egyptian authorities in order to ensure a coordinated approach to avoid such illegal trade, and to inform the Secretariat of the outcome.

Many of the letters and e-mails the Secretariat has received call on the Secretariat to ensure that the persons involved in this action are held accountable. CITES of course has no power to prosecute, bring people to justice or hold people to account for their actions. I am therefore pleased with the investigation started by the Egyptian authorities.

Willem Wijnstekers