The Cairo Connection; Animal Smuggling
The Cairo Connection Part II: Ape Trafficking
Enforcement Missions by CITES
Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?
Pax Animalis; a report by Karl Ammann
In 2001 the CITES Secretariat got for the first time involved in the ape trafficking issue in and out of Egypt when a deplorable case came to light. The Secretary-General took the unusual step to respond with two press releases (below).
Today 10 years later we would like to evaluate what progress has been made in the context of Egypt and CITES compliance and enforcement.
This is what this 2011 report is all about. Please read the Cairo Connection II.
Also see an update to this report: The Cairo Connection III.
An Open Letter (2009) to all PASA Members
We have now finished the documentary film shoot on the 'Cairo Connection'. I followed up on Jason's initial investigation with a trip to Cairo and the UAE in December and then the film shoot in February this year. This we combined with a visit to Europe to interview CITES and Interpol officials and Mike Pugh, formerly of WSPA, who did their investigation in 1996/1997. There is considerable interest in the documentary and the story in general and as such we have started providing the print media with background information.
In Egypt we documented a total of 21 chimps and four gorillas, mostly in private collections, which were clearly brought in illegally and were brought in by the gang our investigation has been targeting (one private zoo owner told us of many gorillas having perished in these same facilities in the last few years).
Clearly nothing has changed since the 96/97 WSPA investigation where Mike Pugh's records show that this woman and her relatives have been smuggling an average of some 40 chimps and 8 gorillas a year and have been doing so for several decades and probably are still doing so today. (as usual the original source of most of these apes was and is Cameroon).
It is also evident that she has supplied other parts of the Middle East and that several chimps smuggled by her into the Emirates and into Qatar are now in PASA sanctuaries.
Interviews with officials at the Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi also revealed that the problem with Kenya Airways goes a long way beyond the six chimps confiscated in January. 2005. Practically all the illegal traffic through the airport takes place as tarmac transfers and there appears to be no control whatsoever in such circumstances (see also the press release below). As such the role of Kenya Airways in this shipment and potentially many other illegal wildlife shipments has been confirmed by a range of sources.
In the case of Egypt there appears to be an additional racket where private collections of wildlife, held by powerful individuals, are classified as 'Rescue Centers under CITES" while the representatives of the Management authorities in Cairo state that they are aware that all the apes in question - plus a wide range of other wildlife - have been bought 'on the black market'.
This brings me to what should/could be learned from this investigation - besides the obvious - that one can not rely on self governing international conventions such as CITES and Interpol in countries with such poor governance quality as Cameroon, Nigeria and Egypt etc.
The lack of any kind of accreditation of national rescue centers - under CITES - means they can and are being used to launder animals. Influential collectors find a way to get hold of these animals and the next step is their facility is classified as a recognized rescue center and the CITES rules have been 'complied with'.
This is something PASA might want to take up with CITES, potentially combined with the offer to help accredit national rescue centers, especially when it comes to those holding apes. (Repatriation only seems to be an issue when it comes to gorillas. It would appear none of the range states wants their chimps back).
Furthermore I still feel strongly about the decision making process, during last years annual PASA meeting having been more then just flawed but outright insulting. Below again the two statements which indicate to what extend the PASA position, as expressed by Doug changed, from one day to the next.
I quote from Doug's E-mails:
The bottom line is that Jason's work remains solid. We have an opportunity here to send a loud SOS. I would hate to have it muted because we can't or won't divulge facts, names, numbers or at least some tangible aspects that put into fresh perspective just how devastating the black-market trade has been. (Doug Cress for PASA on 10 May 2005 in an E-mail to all parties concerned on the press conference, planned at the Norfolk Hotel on June 9th)
Then the E-mail below copied only to Roz Reeve as the final decision by PASA on June 8th:
- Jason prepares a thorough dossier on all his information and presents it to you / me.
- KWS is given the information and asked to either follow up or work to tighten animal controls in-country.
- 3. Ali Kaka and myself / Annie meet with the president of KQ to present information and ask for clear and public action on exotic animal trade
- 4. You present whatever facts that are relevant to CITES regarding Kano / Khartoum / Cairo.
- 5. Any failure by KQ to act within 3-4 weeks or CITES to act within 3-4 weeks will necessitate going public with the information.
I have tried to find out what prompted this 180 degree change in direction (besides the fact that Kenya Airways was prominently displayed in the meeting room as a corporate sponsor of PASA). I was told by several parties that the decision to unilaterally pull out of the press conference was presented as a fait accomplit in the meeting in which it was supposedly discussed.
Some of the French contingent, as on previous occasions, felt that they were not really clear as to what the issue was and if they had to respond or not (no translations).
For an organization which has been 'growing' for quite a few years now it is distressing to find out that there still is no clear formula concerning a decision making process when it comes to issues like this one. There appears to be no formal agenda of such items being presented, no opening up of the floor for discussions, no votes if and where necessary, and no minutes.
These, as far as I am concerned are about the minimum standards when it comes to decision making in any organization of this nature.
So, if it comes to learning lessons. When will PASA become more professional in this context???
Last but not least: I indicated before that several of the chimps having been smuggled by this gang now appear to be in PASA sanctuaries. Some were confiscated in Qatar some in the UAE (one gorilla seems to have been handed over voluntarily, by one Prince, and it went to a zoo in Prague).When trying to link some of these cases to our favorite trafficking family we found the authorities very uncooperative indeed - and many expats which were involved in some of the cases - shaking in their boots.
Even with the two well documented Qatar cases, with all the circumstantial evidence clearly pointing to the Kano/Cairo gang having been involved, the authorities denied there was any kind of information as to the passenger who had brought in the chimps, the pet shop who had tried to clear them with an import permit for 'black monkeys', any passenger manifest which would have allowed to pinpoint some of the well known traffickers or any kind of other information who the apes were taken from (there was a lot more in the press at the time then the authorities now admit to know about).
The end result of this lack of investigation of course means that every now and then something goes wrong with a shipment, some animals get confiscated. If it is apes PASA sanctuaries take them with open arms and the traffickers involved internalize the cost of having lost a shipment (with drugs the estimate is that this is the case with about one in fifteen shipments) as a standard business expense and everything continues as before.
This was also apparent with the 7 chimps which came to Sweetwaters a few years ago. They were clearly the result of a demand pattern which made people on the DRC side of the border actively look for chimps to sell to expats on the other side.
In the context of the above PASA should have a clear cut policy of not accepting any apes without some detailed investigations having been carried out and the results being made public and where corruption, negligence, mismanagement has been established, that there is a plan for corrective measures to be taken with a corresponding follow up.
Without such a system in place some of the PASA sanctuaries might have in the past and potentially will in the future become part of the problem rather then any solution.
Trust these facts and sentiments will be accepted in the spirit they are presented: Something is very wrong out there and some lessons need to be learnt.
Best wishes from a very rainy Mt. Kenya
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