Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards Recipients For 2007

Speech by Willem Wijnstekers, CITES Secretariat

“Distinguished delegates, generous hosts, and ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to again join you at the Species Survival Network’s reception. Tonight, I have the distinct pleasure of recognizing the efforts of our dedicated colleagues in law enforcement through the presentation of the Animal Welfare Institute’s 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards. This award is named in honor of Clark Bavin who, for over eighteen years played an integral role in combating wildlife crime during his tenure as Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Law Enforcement. The commitment, creativity, dedication, and compassion that he brought to the law enforcement profession helped to elevate and improve wildlife crime fighting throughout the world.

It is most appropriate that at the beginning of CoP14 we honor the Bavin Award recipients for their exemplary work in the field of wildlife law enforcement. This must be a reminder to all of us who will discuss, debate, agree, and disagree over the fortnight that our decisions have significant implications both to the wild species that we strive to protect and to those who are on the front line enforcing national and international wildlife laws. Whether patrolling the forests of Cameroon, combating wildlife crime on the streets of New Delhi, prosecuting wildlife criminals in our courts, or identifying illegal shipments in our nation’s ports, we owe everyone who protects our world’s biodiversity a significant debt of gratitude.

Sadly, two of tonight’s recipients made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting their nation’s wildlife.  Though we mourn their loss we must honor their memory by recommitting ourselves to strengthen and expand our wildlife enforcement programs and capabilities.  Since CoP13 I believe we have made significant progress in fighting wildlife crime.  The creation of the ASEAN Wildlife Law Enforcement Network, initiation of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking, improvements made by member countries to strengthen their law enforcement programs, increased inter-governmental information sharing, and expansion of law enforcement capacity building efforts are strong indicators of a broadening awareness of the seriousness of wildlife crime.  These achievements highlight the importance of international cooperation to investigate, capture, and prosecute the perpetrators.  For those involved in these efforts, we owe our collective thanks. 

There is, however, always room for improvement.  We must endeavor to augment our efforts to combat wildlife crime by expanding our investigatory efforts, stiffening our laws, and subjecting those committed of violating such laws with meaningful penalties to deter future crimes.  For motivation to accomplish these objectives we need not look any further than tonight’s Bavin Awards recipients.  We need to seize their spirit, commitment, passion, and determination to protect wildlife and make it our own.  The imperiled plants and animals for whom we our responsible deserve nothing less.

The theme of CoP 14 is The Call of The Wild.  The honorees tonight have heard this call and have committed themselves to protect the wild.  Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen, the 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Award Recipients are: “

Mr. Paul Cerniglia is a supervisory wildlife inspector with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. Since 1982, he has been a mainstay of CITES enforcement through his work at John F. Kennedy International Airport and the Port of New York. His accomplishments include shutting down the New York black market for psittacine birds, assisting in landmark cases involving trafficking in live caimans and caiman skins, expanding the port’s CITES compliance efforts, enforcing CITES protections for sturgeon, and assisting in exposing most of the major U.S. caviar companies as black market profiteers. He has also brought the issue of humane wildlife transport conditions to the forefront resulting in improved industry standards and reduced wildlife mortality. On his own initiative, he developed a rigorous hands-on training program for new inspectors at the Port of New York that has become a model for Fish and Wildlife Service port operations nationwide. For his investigative expertise, commitment to upholding wildlife laws, and exemplary efforts in training other officers, Mr. Cerniglia is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award. Accepting the award on Mr. Cerniglia’s behalf was Mr. Roland Marquis, a wildlife inspector with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mr. Yvan Lafleur has been dedicated to the protection of Canadian and international wildlife and its responsible management throughout his over 41 years of involvement in the field of wildlife law enforcement. After serving as Chief Warden at several national parks in Canada, he became the Chief of Wildlife Enforcement for the Canadian Wildlife Service in 1989. During his tenure, the unit’s mandate was expanded to include endangered species protection and the implementation and enforcement of CITES. Mr. Lafleur’s efforts have significantly contributed to the creation or operations of the North American Wildlife Enforcement Working Group, the Enforcement Table of the Trilateral Committee for the Protection of Ecosystems, the Canadian Natural Resources Law Enforcement Chiefs, the Interpol Wildlife Group, and several other projects. He has also assisted with wildlife enforcement training and capacity building projects in a number of countries and has developed wildlife identification guides to assist wildlife law enforcement officers. Though he retired from the Canadian Wildlife Service in April 2006, he continues to serve as an enforcement representative at the CITES CoP. Based on his experience, Mr. Lafleur is deeply concerned about the division among non-governmental organizations regarding the conservation of wildlife and strongly encourages more sharing of information, coordination and discussion between NGOs and wildlife agencies that have differing visions of wildlife conservation. For his exemplary efforts during his career in wildlife law enforcement, Mr. Lafleur is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award.

The Last Great Ape Organization is a field-based organization that was founded in 2002 to effectively enforce local wildlife laws critical to the survival of threatened animals. In 2003, the Cameroonian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry entered into collaboration with LAGA to create a successful model to deter wildlife crime. As a result, LAGA is the first specialized law enforcement NGO in Cameroon to provide investigatory, operational, legal assistance, public education and media services to assist the government in combating illegal wildlife crimes. Since the inception of this pilot project, there has been remarkable progress in improving wildlife law enforcement efforts in Cameroon. LAGA has initiated 218 investigations, carried out 16 operations resulting in 52 court cases, achieved an average imprisonment rate of 85 percent, and educated the legal establishment and public about the seriousness of wildlife crime through hundreds of stories published by the media. During this period, LAGA has confiscated and re-homed eight chimpanzees, exposed the international ivory trade between several West African countries and the Far East, and investigated the illegal trade in lion skins and live apes. For its efforts to combat wildlife crime, LAGA is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award. Accepting the award on LAGA’s behalf is Mr. Ofir Drori.

In April 2006, Mr. Emmanuel Muyengi, a wildlife officer working for the Wildlife Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism in the United Republic of Tanzania, led a raid on poachers who had killed at least one elephant, eight zebras, and a wildebeest.  During the ensuring melee, Mr. Muyengi was shot in the leg yet, despite the pain, he was able to disable the poacher’s vehicle before collapsing into unconsciousness.  Tragically, he died hours later as a result of his injury.  Mr. Muyengi was a frequent collaborator with the African Wildlife Foundation on conservation projects in the Simanjaro District which provides important habitat for elephants and other wildlife in northern Tanzania.  Mr. Muyengi’s former colleagues describe him as a dedicated wildlife officer who always defended and believed in wildlife conservation ethics and expressed hope that his commitment to wildlife protection will be emulated by other wildlife officers in Tanzania and the world at large.  For his dedication in combating wildlife crime and in honor of his sacrifice in the line of duty, Mr. Muyengi is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award posthumously.

As the chief warden of the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature, Mr. Paulin Ngobobo is directly responsible for the protection of the last and largest remaining populations of mountain gorillas in the southern portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Virunga National Park.  He has led many anti-poaching patrols into mountain gorilla habitat, come under fire from poachers, and been imprisoned and whipped for challenging the role of the Congolese military in the illegal production of charcoal.  Earlier this year, he played a key role in meeting with representatives of a Congolese rebel force to explain the importance of mountain gorilla conservation and its responsibility to protect these animals.  His efforts are succeeding, as evidenced by the increasing gorilla populations in portions of the park.  Mr. Ngobobo frequently speaks to student and community groups about mountain gorillas and their protection and works with indigenous pygmies to seek their assistance in ensuring the survival of these magnificent gorillas.  For his dedication to the protection of Virunga National Park’s mountain gorillas and his efforts to educate others about the importance of preserving this species, Mr. Ngobobo is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award.

On the evening of February 3, 2006, a team of police officers of the Special Operation Group from the Rajasthan Police Department seized 34 freshly tanned leopard skins and 4 otter skins in Delhi and made two arrests in a well planned operation spread over a number of states.  One of the criminals was an important member of an organized ring of poachers who had been responsible for the repeated smuggling of tiger, leopard and otter skins into Tibet.  Both before and after this significant seizure of wildlife products, the Rajasthan Police Department has demonstrated its commitment to enforcing wildlife protection laws in India.  According to a partial compilation of wildlife crime investigations, the Rajasthan police have seized numerous animal parts and arrested nearly three dozen criminals – including India’s most notorious wildlife criminal – since January 2003. It has succeeded in breaking up entire wildlife criminal networks including the poachers, suppliers, middlemen, and consumers of wildlife products within India.  For its effort to combat wildlife crimes, the Rajasthan Police Department is awarded a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award.  Accepting the award on behalf of the Rajasthan Police Department is Mr. Rajeev Sharma, Deputy Inspector General of Police.

Mr. Samson Parsimei Ole Sisina joined Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Department – the predecessor of the Kenya Wildlife Service – in 1979.  As a ranger and ranger-driver Mr. Sisina provided exemplary service in a number of stations, including Narok, Kajiado, Tsavo West National Park, Meru National Park and Hell’s Gate National Park.  Tragically, he lost his life on April 19, 2005 while engaged in an undercover investigation of an illegal game meat operation.  A native Masai, Mr. Sisina had elected to leave the traditional rural life of his people in order to pursue a job working for the Kenya Wildlife Service.  In honor of his career fighting wildlife crime with diligence, professionalism, trust and integrity, and in remembrance of his ultimate sacrifice in protecting the wildlife of Kenya, Mr. Sisina is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award posthumously.  Accepting the award in his memory is Mr. Julius Kimani, The Head of Investigations on Wildlife Crime of the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Mr. John Webb has strengthened CITES enforcement in the United States and contributed to increased global protections for wildlife during his over 20 years of service with the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.  As a prosecutor, he has taken on the global black market trade in CITES-listed species, securing numerous convictions of individuals and companies.  Mr. Webb and his team of attorneys have secured significant fines and prison sentences for organized criminal networks engaged in the illegal trade in CITES-protected birds and reptiles.  His efforts have also exposed the kingpins of the lucrative black market caviar trade.  He pioneered the use of extradition in wildlife prosecutions, introduced DNA evidence for the prosecution of wildlife crimes, and has found novel ways to apply U.S. federal law to such crimes.  Mr. Webb is recognized both domestically and internationally as the pre-eminent expert on U.S. wildlife law and CITES enforcement, and he has shared this expertise as a lecturer and instructor for international training programs in Mexico, Madagascar, India, Argentina, Belgium, Thailand, Brazil, Columbia and Canada.  For these exemplary efforts, Mr. Webb is presented with a 2007 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award.  Accepting the award on Mr. Webb’s behalf is Mr. Benny Perez, Acting Chief of the Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.