March 2, 2013 - One day before the official inauguration of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand, the parties have decided to suspend trade in CITES listed species with Guinea. The West African country has been reported to issue fraudulent permits for a number of animals, including great apes.
The sanctions prevent Guinea from importing and exporting all the 35,000 species listed by CITES. Guinea has a significant export trade in several CITES species including reptile leather, live birds, such as parrots and raptors, live reptiles, live monkeys, orchids and seahorses.
Guinea has been sanctioned due to concerns over the issuance of invalid CITES permits, which facilitated illegal trade for protected species. For a decade, great apes such as chimpanzees and gorillas, among other species, have been exported from Guinea, reaching foreign markets, especially in Asia.
In past years the CITES Secretariat has visited Guinea, and outlined specific actions that Guinea needed to take to resolve the problem.
However there is no evidence that these actions have been undertaken. Guinea has issued several export permits for chimpanzees and gorillas, declared as ‘captive-bred'. Yet the CITES Secretariat is not aware of any captive-breeding operations for chimpanzees in Guinea.
Guinea was requested to provide a detailed report to the secretariat by 31 December 2012 to avoid facing commercial sanctions, and later invited the country to provide a written report at the Bangkok CITES meeting.
Sanctions came today as the report from Guinea had not been received while and Guinean CITES documents for ‘captive-bred' specimens continue to be issued to this date.
Investigative non-governmental organizations reported that in 2007 two chimpanzees were exported from Guinea to China. The export of chimps increased to eight in 2008, 29 in 2009 and 61 in 2010. Additionally ten gorillas were exported in 2010. An Interpol statement in 2012 said that at least 130 chimpanzees were exported in total in the last three years.
The decision to sanction Guinea was unanimous, and is a positive sign that CITES governments can take the strong measures permitted under the convention to hold failing countries to account.
WWF is calling on CITES to impose sanctions on countries that have for years flouted international laws meant to protect threatened species. Tigers, rhinos and elephants in particular are at risk from poaching for illegal trade.
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