Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards Recipients for 2013

CITES Secretary-General to Present
2013 Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards in Bangkok
Species Survival Network Congratulates Dedicated Conservation Advocates

(Bangkok, Thailand)- 5 March 2013: The Species Survival Network (SSN), a global coalition of nearly 100 organizations from more than 30 countries, today congratulated the recipients of the prestigious Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards.

In the Queen Sirikit Convention Center, hundreds of delegates attending the 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES gathered to honor the heroic efforts of wildlife law enforcement officers who often put their lives in jeopardy to protect wildlife and uphold the rule of law.

Will Travers, President of the Species Survival Network said, “Wildlife law enforcement is the front-line. It’s a dangerous, sometimes deadly place. Sadly all too often the sacrifice made by law enforcement officers goes unrecognized-not tonight.”

DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist with the US-based Animal Welfare Institute, sponsor of the Bavin Awards, added, “It is a privilege to work in wildlife conservation and be an advocate for wild animals in desperate need across the globe – and it is an honor to share this evening with the dedicated wildlife protectors who turn words into deeds and stop at nothing to end wildlife crime.”

David Higgins has played a pivotal leadership role in building Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme. Through his leadership, Interpol has launched many of the international law enforcement projects such as Operations PREY, RAMP, and CAGE that have led to the apprehension of wildlife criminal and seizure of wildlife products in illegal trade. He has also pioneered partnerships for Interpol with other law enforcement agencies, scientific institutions, and conservation and animal welfare NGOs and created national task forced helping diverse national agencies to plan and conduct joint wildlife law enforcement operations.

Since March 2010, Kenya has lost more than 56 of its rangers and other wildlife law enforcement staff. Today 13 of those who have died in the line of duty are being recognized, posthumously, with a Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award. Mohamed Osman Abdi, Bernark Mwakio, Adan Sheikh Mohamed, Seneu Ole Narankaik, Danial Njagi, Moses Lelesit, Gabriel Mghalu Malemba, Haron Kipyegon Langa, Koyati Parsaip, Bake Alio Adan, Florece Hadia Abae, Francis Otieno Ochieng, and Dismas Kimtai were all killed in the line of duty; most struck down by poachers bullets. Rangers Florence Hadia Abae was the first Kenya Wildlife Service female ranger killed in the line of duty. These recipients all paid the ultimate price for daring to protect Kenya’s wildlife.

Since 1991, Marco Fiori has been engaged in enforcing CITES in Italy. He is the Chief Operational Officer at the National CITES Investigation Unit of the Corpo Forestale Dello Stato and serves as Italy’s point person on Interpol’s working group on crimes related to protected flora and fauna. During his career, Mr. Fiori has promoted collaborative efforts to enhance wildlife law enforcement efforts, the use of science to combatting wildlife crime, and coordinated a number operations resulting in, for example, the seizure of a variety of live wildlife and wildlife products. He has also provided training to countless forest guards, customs officials, and rangers in law enforcement and forensic techniques in Italy and internationally.

Samsundar Ramdeen, a game warden in the Forestry Division in Trinidad and Tobago, was both an enforcement officer and prosecutor tasked with protecting his country’s wildlife and its laws. Among his many accomplishments, he was instrumental in converting Trinidad and Tobago beaches from leatherback sea turtle slaughterhouses into protected areas now home to the second largest population of leatherbacks in the world. He played a key role in intercepting illegal shipments of wildlife originating in South America destined for the north. He was also actively involved in Interpol’s wildlife crime program and in training future game wardens in his country. Though now retired, Mr. Ramdeen’s career advanced wildlife law enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago and has led to the country’s first ever National Wildlife Policy.

I am honored to recognize Bonnie Yates of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service who works at the Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory. Ms. Yates is a pioneer as one of the first classically trained morphologists to apply science in a forensic setting to enhance wildlife law enforcement. Over two decades she has developed new scientific tools to combat wildlife crime. She has worked on over 2,000 forensic cases analyzing nearly 7,000 pieces of evidence and has published numerous scientific studies. Her efforts have enhanced protections for an ark full of animals while her work in the classroom has provided training to scores of US inspectors and agents and law enforcement personnel in other countries.

In the dawn hours of September 3, 2012, Zakaria Ibrahim, Brahim Khamis, Daoud Aldjouma, Djibrine Adoum Goudja, Idriss Adoum, and Hassan Djibrine were gunned down by poachers during their morning prayer. Five were killed and one is missing and presumed dead. These rangers were targeted due to their efforts to combat elephant poaching in Zakouma National Park where the elephant population has plummeted precipitiously since 2005. As reported internationally, these rangers “were assassinated for protecting the last of the elephant herds found in the vast stretches between the Sahara Desert and the Congo forest.”

Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez is the Executive Director of International Animal Rescue Indonesia. Ms. Sánchez oversees this organization which provides sanctuary and rehabilitation for confiscated wildlife in Indonesia particularly the slow loris and orangutan. In addition, she and her staff engage in substantial public awareness campaigns to reduce demand for wildlife products, conduct training seminars for law enforcement officers and, in cooperation with those officers, conducts law enforcement operations within wildlife markets throughout Indonesia.

From April 2010 to August 2012 the Uttarakhand Forestry and Police Departments have undertaken nearly 100 seizures of illegally trafficked wildlife; a seizure rate higher than any of their counterparts in other Indian states. These seizures have included a variety of species protected by CITES including big cats, reptiles and amphibians, Asian elephants, bears, crocodiles and more. In the vast majority of these cases, the accused were successfully prosecuted and penalized. The collective efforts of these departments has raised the profile of wildlife crime law enforcement led to an increase in the deterrence of wildlife crime in Uttarakhand.

In an 8 month investigation the Jiangmen Customs District Office exposed a massive case of tax fraud and the illegally laundering of 270 tons of shark fins by the Jiangmen seafood company in collusion with local shark fin processing businesses and companies located in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This was the largest seizure of illegally traded shark fins ever in China. The investigation has led to 9 arrests of individuals for illegal wildlife trade and tax crimes.

Police Major General Kiattipong Khaosamang of the Royal Thai Police Central Investigations Bureau has been waging a war on wildlife traffickers and corruption with success but at great risk to his own life. His efforts are reforming Thailand from a wildlife trade hub into a leader in wildlife conservation. Mr. Khaosamang and his team are making it more difficult for criminals to traffic wildlife through Thailand. He has led several successful wildlife law enforcement operations against international syndicates trading in tigers, ivory, and exotic animalsThese and other cases dismantled powerful criminal networks and resulted in the seizure of tons of wildlife products, arrests, and successful prosecutions. His passion, skill and dedication for his work has positively influenced many of Thailand’s wildlife law enforcement officers.