CITES Corners Raise Awareness About Illegal Trade in Protected Animal Species

Total Croatia News

It is estimated that illegal trafficking in protected species is second only to drugs and weapons trafficking by the money involved. Croatia is often a transit country.

Brand new expensive sneakers which no one has ever used. They are made from the skin of a rare python, an endangered and protected snake species. Beside them, a wallet made from the skin of the same precious snake, and a wristwatch strap made from an American alligator. These are just some of the confiscated items which are exhibited at the Informative Educational Centre Dravska Priča near Virovitica, reports Večernji List on November 26, 2017.

“There are also shells of protected shells, corals, a sea turtle and a seahorse, an eagle and rare spiders, fur of a small spotted cat. Our goal is to educate citizens so they would not take part in such activities,” says Tatjana Arnold Sabo, the director of the County Institution for Management of Protected Areas of Nature.

Exhibits were given to them by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, and they are part of the so-called CITES Corner, named after the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. The convention has been in force since 1975, and 178 countries have joined it so far.

It is estimated that illegal trafficking in protected species is second only to drug trafficking and weapons by the money involved, and Croatia is often used a transit country. “The market price of a wolf is 40,000 kuna, while some species of birds are worth between 20,000 and 60,000 kunas. The sale of fur skins, skulls and teeth can also bring tens of thousands of kunas,” says Luka Oman from the Friends of Animals NGO.

It is estimated that, for each discovered shipment, there are five to ten other consignments which pass through the borders undetected. That is one of the reasons for increased training and cooperation between state authorities, veterinary and customs services, the police and the judiciary.

After smugglers are discovered, killed animals are taken away, while smuggled living animals are permanently accommodated in state asylums or returned to their country of origin. Penalties are monetary fees, but they are not high enough, at least according to wildlife activists, who also demand the introduction of the so-called positive lists.

“A positive list is a list of species which can be kept as house animals, and they are compiled by experts. The list allows for better control of animal sales and greater protection of people and the environment, the reduction of huge costs arising from illegal trafficking and the better treatment of diseases caused by wild animals. The positive list for mammals has been successfully applied in Belgium since 2009, and in the Netherlands since early 2015. The lists for fish, birds and reptiles are being drafted as we speak. The introduction of positive lists is currently being considered by several European countries. We proposed the idea when the new Law on Animal Protection was being drafted. The law came into force a month ago, but our proposal was rejected due to pressure from animal traders,” he says.

He also points out that the smuggling of animals is associated with a high risk of the spread of diseases. “The best-known example is the legal and illegal trade in wild birds, which played a significant role in the global spread of bird flu. As an association, we are opposed to the breeding and selling of animals, and the only real solution is an increase in awareness about the unacceptability of purchasing and detaining living creatures. However, the government needs to make at least some basic changes to bring the situation under control, so it would not escalate even further,” concludes Oman.

There are three CITES corners in Croatia. The first one was installed in 2013 at the old terminal of the Zagreb Airport and should soon be moved to the new terminal. The second is set up at the Brijuni National Park, while the third one is located in the Virovitica-Podravina County. Their goal is to educate the public about the topic, but also about the protection of certain species in Croatia.

As for the number of cases of smuggling, the Ministry points out that it varies and depends on the market demands and cannot be foreseen in advance. “Some of the cases occur because people do not know about the restrictions prescribed by the CITES convention, so they purchase souvenirs, leather products, accessories, handicrafts and decorative items originating from CITES species which are sold in other countries. People are unaware that they can be sanctioned for importing them without adequate permits for cross-border traffic. Also, there is a black market, and most of it relates to the organised trade of live wild animals, plants, body parts and derivatives of endangered species on a global scale, for example, rhino horns, ivory, shellfish, trophies and the like,” said the Ministry.

Translated from Večernji List.


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