Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards Recipients for 1997

Mr. Niagate, Wildlife Chief of Mali, has been fighting organized poaching gangs for years, including bushmeat poachers. Mali has an important wildlife heritage, including the desert-adapted elephants of Gourma. Chief Niagate has spearheaded efforts to protect these elephants from poaching and thirst, through his Gourma rehabilitation project. He is an ongoing, positive influence on CITES and the species it seeks to protect.

Mr. Issa Sylla, National Parks Director for Senegal, waged a successful campaign against commercial poaching gangs in Niokolo Koba National Park. When the ivory ban came into effect in January 1990, Niokolo Koba’s natural population of at least 5,000 elephants had been shot down to just 28 individuals. A concerted campaign with new strategy and tactics, including new rangers with adequate equipment and vehicles, shut the poachers down.

Mr. Kpenindoma was a courageous wildlife ranger in Bui National Park. Upon hearing shots from poachers inside the park, Simon and three other rangers gave chase. Simon was unarmed, and he knew the poachers were armed. Nevertheless, he ran hard and caught up with the poachers first. He was shot point-blank by a poacher named Moro Baah. He died of his wounds shortly thereafter. He left a pregnant widow. MoroBaah escaped into Ivory Coast. Ghanian authorities have requested the extradition of Moro Baah to stand trial for murder, but so far the requests have been ignored.

Mr. Punguse, Director of Ghana’s Department of Wildlife, proposed, way back in 1976, putting the African elephant on CITES Appendix I. He was ridiculed at that time. But he stuck by his policy and never wavered. When CITES declined the Appendix I listing, he put Ghana’s elephants on CITES Appendix III. Because of this, today’s ivory ban covers all elephant ivory acquired since 1976 (date the species was first listed on CITES). Today, Ghana is an inspiration in other areas. For example, Ghana has a good population of African grey parrots, a bird which is very popular with the pet industry. CITES permits trade in this species, but Ghana forgoes the financial rewards of trade in order to serve the higher interest of the species. Mr. Punguse’s leadership in wildlife law enforcement is well-recognized. Through the years, he has caught many poachers and put them in jail. He is a member of the Interpol Subgroup on Wildlife Crime.

Dr. Den Hertog, a Dutch police officer, chairs the Interpol Subgroup on Wildlife Crime. Interpol considers wildlife crime an extremely serious offense and is urging all countries to invest more resources in suppressing such crime. Mr. den Hertog organized an effort that broke up an illegal marketing ring, resulting in the confiscation of hundreds of thousands of traditional Asian medicine products containing endangered species. His cooperation last year with USFWS agents resulted in the arrest of members of an important reptile smuggling ring.

Special Agent Marks, who has been with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for almost 20 years, was the lead agent in the overt phase of the case against Tony Silva. Silva, an exotic bird expert and author of numerous books on the subject, was sentenced to 82 months in prison as a result of the USFWS “Operation Renegade.” Silva pleaded guilty to smuggling scores of rare exotic birds into the U.S., many of whom died of suffocation.

Mr. Mainen, Senior Special Agent, USFWS, began his career with the Service’s Division of Law Enforcement in 1977. He was the lead agent for “Operation Falcon” that uncovered a Middle Eastern plot to smuggle endangered falcons from North America. He helped South African police set up their Endangered Species Protection Unit and aided enforcement training in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, Taiwan, France and Israel. He provided support for “Operation Wise Guy,” “Operation Snow Cat,” “Operation Brooks Range” and “Operation Renegade” and assisted criminal investigations relating to wildlife in 23 countries.

Dr. Ilyashenko, the Russian CITES Management Authority Director, is responsible for officially establishing Department Tiger, Operation Amba, as a department within the Russian Ministry of the Environment. He also put together Russia’s official CITES Task Force in Moscow. Ilyashenko and his team have cracked down on the illegal smuggling of rare and endangered species into Russia, including African grey parrots, chimpanzees and rhino horn. Since the importers are often members of Russia’s Mafia, Ilyashenko is routinely threatened.