In a precedent-setting legal development, Mexican authorities have arrested six suspected totoaba traffickers under charges of Organized Crime and Crimes Against the Environment.
A press release issued by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office states that the arrests were made during a series of coordinated raids on November 11, carried out to enforce warrants issued earlier in the year.
The six individuals arrested are suspected members of a transnational criminal organization involved in the trafficking of totoaba swim bladders. The court has granted authorities two months to continue the investigation, during which time the suspects will remain in jail.
This case marks the first time these charges, which carry a possible prison sentence, have been applied in Mexico.
The totoaba is a large species of sea bass endemic to the waters of Mexico and protected under international law. Poachers catch totoabas for their swim bladders, which are often referred to as “the cocaine of the sea” due to the high price they demand on the Chinese black market.
Totoaba poaching is the primary cause of the decline of the critically endangered vaquita porpoise, the world’s most endangered marine mammal, which exists only in a small region in Mexico’s Upper Gulf of California.
There are sadly fewer than 20 vaquitas remaining in the wild.
The gillnets poachers use to catch totoabas often span several hundred feet in length and form invisible barriers under the sea. Vaquitas, which are approximately the same size as totoabas, become entangled in the deadly illegal nets and drown. Whales, dolphins, sharks, and sea turtles also fall victim to these illegal nets.
Sea Shepherd has been working with Mexican authorities to deter poaching and remove the illegal gillnets that threaten the survival of the vaquita since 2015.
To-date, Sea Shepherd’s Operation Milagro (Spanish for “miracle”), has removed over 1,200 pieces of illegal fishing gear from the Vaquita Refuge, a UNESCO-recognized and federally-protected area in which gillnet fishing is banned.
“Sea Shepherd applauds the vision and leadership of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office and other authorities for investigating and prosecuting the environmental crime of smuggling totoaba bladders as transnational organized crime,” said Peter Hammarstedt, Sea Shepherd’s Director of Campaigns, in a statement. “While Sea Shepherd ships and crew work to confiscate illegal gillnets at sea, Mexican prosecutors are using every tool in the legal toolbox to successfully net suspected poaching ringleaders on land.”
The post Six Trafficking Arrests Made In Mexico For The Illegal Poaching Of Protected Totoaba; The Main Reason For The Decline Of The Critically Endangered Vaquita Porpoise appeared first on World Animal News.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally trapping a coyote in Essex County, Massachusetts.
The male coyote, who was approximately five months old, was caught in a Duke #160 Body Trap, which are illegal in Massachusetts. The barbaric and indiscriminate trap was placed, by a person or persons, in an area near a local golf course where wild coyotes sometimes roam. These lethal traps are often used for capturing smaller animals such as raccoons and groundhogs.
WAN talked exclusively with Sergeant Locke from the Swampscott Police Department this morning to find out the status of the investigation. While he was limited on what he could share since it is an ongoing investigation, he did confirm that the department and animal control are continuing to work on the case.
“There is no update yet, but we are looking for other instances of illegal trapping,” Locke told WAN, noting that they are also trying to find cameras that may contain useful footage. “Hopefully, this gets a resolution because the traps are not safe for animals or anyone.”
Once found, the person or persons responsible for setting the illegal trap will be charged with animal cruelty and illegal trapping. According to Locke, both charges are substantial.
As per Animal Legal Defense Fund, the poor coyote ran off after being trapped and it took authorities a few days to rescue the animal who was emaciated and suffered a broken jaw. In total, the trap was on his snout for about a week, which prevented him from eating. Tragically, the damage to his jaw was irreparable and the young coyote had to be euthanized.
This is yet another example of why the cruel and indiscriminate trapping of animals should be illegal, period.
“Much like the companion animals we consider family, wildlife animals are capable of feeling pain and deserve to be protected under the law,” Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director, Stephen Wells, said in a statement. “We commend the Swampscott Police Department for taking this case seriously and urge anyone with information about this crime to come forward.”
In Massachusetts, it is a felony offense to knowingly and willingly inflict cruelty to an animal. Under a recent amendment to the law, the maximum penalty for animal cruelty is seven years in a state prison or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.
If you have information related to this incident, please contact the Swampscott Police Department and Animal Control at (781) 595-1111.
You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg
The post WAN Exclusive With The Sergeant Working On A Tragic Case Of Illegal Coyote Trapping In Massachusetts; $5,000 Reward Offered By Animal Legal Defense Fund appeared first on World Animal News.
Today, the National Parks Board, Singapore (NParks) crushed nine tons of ivory, worth S$18 million, to commemorate World Elephant Day, which falls on August 12th. Singapore’s ivory crushing event, the largest globally in recent years, demonstrates Singapore’s strong determination and commitment to combat the illegal trade in wildlife.
The destruction of the ivory seized from various shipments in past years will prevent it from re-entering the market and will disrupt the global supply chain of illegally traded ivory.
Singapore’s first Center for Wildlife Forensics (CWF) also launched today. The CWF will strengthen NParks’ detection and diagnostic capabilities by drawing upon expertise across NParks to identify and analyse specimens involved in the illegal wildlife trade. This will strengthen Singapore’s role in the international fight against the illegal trade in wildlife.
The CWF will focus on wildlife most severely impacted by the illegal wildlife trade, including: elephants, rhinoceros, pangolins, sharks, and rays.
Collaborations between NParks, Singapore Customs, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, as well as other international counterparts have enabled Singapore to seize record amounts of pangolin scales and elephant ivory that were en route to other countries in the region.
“The CITES secretariat has witnessed the high level of priority the government in Singapore affords to curtailing wildlife crime, and the sustained and coordinated involvement of multiple agencies in doing so. Singapore’s use of rigorous risk management and indicators has proven to be highly effective in the screening of suspicious cargo and passengers,” CITES Secretary General, Ms. Ivonne Higuero, said in a statement. “The significant seizures made by authorities in Singapore underscore the efficiency of this approach, and the intelligence reports generated in this regard have also supported actions by other parties.”
Currently, Singapore identifies seized items through morphological and molecular analysis. Moving forward, the Center for Wildlife Forensics can utilize DNA analysis methods that will focus on next generation sequencing, utilizing chemical methods, such as mass spectrometry and isotope analysis, to provide greater resolution and deeper insights on the seized items. Their main focus will closely examine the origin of the population and species that have been poached. This information can help international organizations and source countries to undertake further investigations and enforcements against poachers and smugglers. These capabilities will aid the analysis of seizures throughout the globe to identify potential linkages and syndicates through collaborations with international experts and organizations.
“The launch of a Center for Wildlife Forensics in Singapore represents a major step towards strengthening the country’s knowledge and capabilities. The Center will establish a dedicated capacity building entity for enforcement officers, providing training for the complex task of detecting illegal wildlife and wildlife products,” continued Higuero. “This is exactly the kind of response that is needed to tackle illegal wildlife crime. Forensic applications must fully be used to combat illegal trade in wildlife.”
The Center for Wildlife Forensics will also strengthen Singapore’s commitment to conserve biodiversity in the country’s nature reserves and parks.
The post Singapore Crushes 9 Tons Of Elephant Ivory & Launches New Center For Wildlife Forensics To Further Combat Illegal Wildlife Trade appeared first on World Animal News.
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has signed a new directive that bans wildlife imports and closes illegal wildlife markets, a move applauded by Humane Society International (HSI)/Vietnam. This directive provides clear instructions to relevant enforcement agencies and authorities to take immediate actions to better control wildlife trade as part of the global response to the threat of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19 posed by wildlife consumption and trade.
The move follows a letter and recommendations sent to the Prime Minister’s office in February 2020 by 14 wildlife protection organizations, including: Pan Nature, Change, Save Vietnam Wildlife, ENV, WCS, WWF Vietnam and HSI/Vietnam, urging the government to shut down wild animal markets and other vendors selling wildlife for human consumption. Additionally, in April, HSI/Vietnam sent an urgent plea and science-based white paper to the Prime Minister’s office and other relevant ministries calling for immediate action to ban wildlife trade, transport, and consumption — particularly mammal and bird species, which are known to contract coronaviruses — in order to address the threat they pose to public health in addition to animal welfare and species conservation.
“Vietnam’s directive clearly shows the government’s commitment to eradicating illegal wildlife trade and consumption. The directive bans wildlife imports with certain exemptions, and urges the closure of illegal wildlife markets,” said Ms. Phuong Tham, HSI/Vietnam’s Director in an email sent to WAN. “It also discourages all citizens from illegally hunting, catching, buying, selling, transporting, slaughtering, consuming, storing, and advertising wildlife. These measures combined with strict management of wildlife farming are extremely welcome news in the global efforts to end wildlife exploitation and the grave risks for conservation, animal welfare, and human health.”
“The existence of wildlife markets in many locations has been a big problem in Vietnam for a long time, with many Vietnamese people consuming endangered species such as cobra, turtle, and pangolin, as well as monkeys, birds, and other unprotected species,” continued Tham. “Without stronger actions, Vietnam risks eating many of these species into extinction because they can so easily be purchased in markets, from street vendors and even just outside of our national parks. Vietnam’s rapacious appetite for wildlife is endangering not just these species’ survival, but as we have seen with the coronavirus outbreak, it is endangering people’s lives too, so this ban can’t come soon enough.”
Although the exact origins of the current coronavirus are still unknown, it likely originated in a market in Wuhan, China, that was selling and slaughtering live wild animals on site. Multiple infectious disease outbreaks have been tied to the wildlife trade, including SARS, which is believed to have been passed to humans by civets sold in a Chinese wildlife market for meat in 2003. An estimated 75% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (spread from non-human animals to humans).
“The current COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated just how deadly the wildlife trade can be, not just for the wild animals involved, but also for people throughout the world. COVID-19 is a tipping point that governments like that of Vietnam are wise not to ignore. Wildlife markets worldwide are a petri dish for the next global pandemic, so this directive opens a way for Vietnam to end their illegal wildlife trade and also help global efforts to prevent the next global pandemic from happening,” said Teresa Telecky, Vice President of wildlife at HSI. “Furthermore, the temporary ban on wildlife imports will save many endangered and threatened species from exploitation and consumption.
“Based on this directive, we look forward to upcoming actions that Vietnam will take to prevent wild tigers from being captured and laundered into captive facilities and also prevent the trafficking of tigers and their products and derivatives from captive facilities in the country,” concluded Telecky.
Last month, the Vietnamese National Assembly ratified a free trade agreement with the European Union that includes provisions to support the Vietnamese government’s efforts to curb the wildlife trade.
The post Victory! Vietnam Bans Wildlife Imports, Closing Illegal Wildlife Markets As Part Of A Global Crackdown appeared first on World Animal News.