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CITES investigation leads to confiscation of illegally traded gorillas
Geneva, 11 October 2002 - Following an investigation prompted by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Government of Malaysia has announced that it will confiscate four young gorillas imported into the country earlier this year.
The investigation found that the gorillas were not born in a Nigerian zoo as claimed, but instead had been captured in the wild in Nigeria or, more likely, in a neighbouring country. The commercial trade in all wild gorillas is strictly forbidden under CITES.
"Gorillas are so highly endangered that every criminal transaction such as the one uncovered here can have an impact on their future," said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers. "The laws are in place - we must now rely on all governments to tighten their enforcement controls and do everything in their power to stamp out illegal wildlife trade."
The gorillas were imported into Malaysia from Nigeria by the Taiping Zoo on the basis of falsified documents. The CITES Secretariat took action after receiving information from several sources questioning whether the claim that the animals had been born in captivity was true. While the investigation continues, it has been firmly established that the gorillas were traded illegally and in violation of the treaty.
The Secretariat will issue an alert to all national CITES management authorities as well as Interpol and the World Customs Organization to help enforcement officials better target such activities. The confiscated gorillas will be sent to a breeding centre or a zoo in a third country still to be determined.
Illegal wildlife trade continues to pose a major threat to the survival of many highly endangered plants and animals. The 160 member Governments of CITES will discuss how to enforce trade bans on rhinoceroses, the tiger, the Tibetan antelope and other species more effectively when they meet for a major conference in Santiago, Chile from 3 to 15 November.
For further information, please contact: John Sellar, CITES Senior Enforcement Officer, +41-22-917-8293, john.sellar [at] unep.ch; Juan Carlos Vasquez, CITES Media Officer, +41-22-917-8156, juan.vasquez [at] unep.ch, or Michael Williams, UNEP Press Officer, +41-22-917-8282, +41-79-409-1528 (cell), or michael.williams [at] unep.ch.
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