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COMMUNIQUE DE PRESSE
Governments join forces through CITES to catch wildlife criminals
The Hague, 7 June 2007 - Recent successes in strengthening international cooperation on enforcing wildlife laws will feature prominently at the talks here on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
For example, responding to a call by the Prime Minister of Thailand for the formation of a 'Wildlife Interpol', Asian governments created the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) in December 2005. ASEAN-WEN has gone on to build greater collaboration and coordination between member countries, both at the operational and strategic levels.
More recently a CITES Enforcement Task Force met in the United Arab Emirates to discuss the smuggling of falcons. It produced an identification guide to help customs and other law enforcement agencies target criminals who remove falcons from the wild, smuggle them across borders and then sell them illegally for falconry.
Another Enforcement Task Force has met in Kenya at the headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to examine the illegal trade in great apes. Its efforts are being complemented by the Great Ape Task Force, which has produced awareness-raising posters and leaflets to alert border control and police agencies to criminal activities that threaten these species.
This month's CITES conference will also consider how improved information sharing amongst Governments has significantly advanced the struggle against wildlife criminals. For example, last year customs in Hong Kong S.A.R., China seized a container containing a large quantity of illegal ivory. Information about the case was rapidly exchanged with international law enforcement organizations and with African governments. This enabled the Cameroon authorities to seize a further two containers that had also been adapted for smuggling ivory. Arrest warrants have been issued for those involved.
Working closely with Interpol, the World Customs Organization, regional wildlife law enforcement groups and other UN bodies, the CITES Secretariat continues to assist countries around the world with their enforcement efforts, including through an alert system that provides regular intelligence and risk-assessment advice. Over the past two years, alerts have been issued on bear bile, caviar, crocodile skins, invalid CITES documents, ivory, sea turtle shells and the abuse of diplomatic immunity. The Secretariat has also conducted in-country work on the illegal trade in ivory, orangutans and tigers. Delegates in The Hague will be informed of the recommendations and lessons learned from these various activities.
Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General of CITES, said, "The wildlife law enforcement successes achieved over the past several years show what can be achieved when the international community works together. I am delighted that enforcement will receive such a high profile in The Hague and that it will feature in the Ministerial session. Recent advances must not make us complacent, however - we need to allocate a much higher priority to bringing wildlife criminals to justice."
Note to journalists: The CITES Secretariat is organizing a 12h30 press briefing today in the South America room with John M. Sellar, Senior Officer, Anti-smuggling, Fraud and Organized Crime, CITES Secretariat; Benito Perez, Acting Chief, Division of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Captain Aroon Promphan, Natural Resources and Environment Crime Division, Royal Thai Police; and Peter Younger, Wildlife Crime Programme Officer, Interpol.
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