Rise in bids to smuggle in endangered species

DUBAI — The Dubai Customs foiled 118 attempts to smuggle endangered animals and plants, and products from them into the UAE in 2010 against 80 seizures in 2009, including nine cases of ivory tusks, according to a top 

By (Ahmed Shaaban)

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Published: Tue 22 Mar 2011, 11:51 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 10:24 AM

“The cases registered in the Dubai International Airport alone hit 70 in 2010 as compared to 26 in 2009. The rest of the smuggling bids were thwarted in other land and sea crossing points, as well as the Dubai Cargo Village,” Yousif H. Alsahlawi, Senior Executive Director for Corporate Affairs at the Dubai Customs, told Khaleej Times.

To curb more or less hauls does not reflect the volume or trends of smuggling, however. The Dubai Customs spares no effort in combating importing, exporting and re-exporting of endangered animals and plants in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) of wild flora and fauna. The treaty is an international agreement aimed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Alsahlawi said the rise in seizures is mainly attributed to better devices and intensive training. “Our competent inspectors go through intensive and regular courses all the year to train them on the updated list of endangered species and how to properly handle them.”

The items seized included stuffed animals and birds, leather patches, horns, hooves, ivory tusks, tortoise shields, ostrich eggs, Oud oil and wood, Ghazal musk etc. “Some of the biggest seizures busted last year spanned 27kg of Sandalwood, 53 patches of animal leather and 31 ivory products,” he said.

The items confiscated mainly came from Africa, particularly the ivory tusks, exported to Europe. “The UAE is just a transit and shall never be a safe haven for smugglers,” he added.The items seized are referred to the Ministry of Environment and Water, which is in charge of administering licences for examination, preservation and re-export. “Most of the smugglers involved are Asian and African youth,” he noted.

Alsahlawi then urged buyers to double check the legality of bringing or importing any products into the country, particularly if they are made from endangered animals. “People need to check if certain documents or certificates are required to avoid confiscation, loss of money and legal action.”

The convention — now binding to 175 member states, was first drafted in 1963, finally joined by 80 countries on March 3, 1973, and entered in force on July 1, 1975. The UAE joined the convention in 1990. “The species listed have grown up to 25,000 plants and 5,000 animals, along with their products,” he said.

According to CITES statistics, international wildlife trade annually stood at billions of dollars and include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens.

“The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines,” he said.


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