SLIDESHOW: Seize (of) the Day!
Last week in Honiara, capital of the Solomon Islands, the local Customs Intelligence Team intercepted and seized a consignment of four parcels. They contained 17 species of magnificent butterflies, scientifically known as Papillio Toboro, all strictly protected in the Solomon Islands and not to be exported without a permit.
The butterflies were destined for private addresses in Italy, Australia and New Zealand and the interception showed great work by Solomon Islands Customs. Only last month a cache of endangered parrots were seized by PNG Customs, just before they were smuggled out of the country on a logging ship.
Our region is particularly vulnerable to illegal trade in wildlife. With an abundance of beautiful, endangered animals and plants highly prized (and priced!) in Australasia, Europe and North America. Pacific customs officers face a daunting task, policing state borders that stretch across hundreds of miles of ocean and encompass many remote islands, each one a treasure trove of marine life and tropical birds and reptiles.
Local law enforcement officers are often under-resourced and need all the help they can get in learning about endangered species identification and how to spot smuggling techniques, but also in the importance of communicating with and coordinating between various national and international agencies in order to keep one step ahead of the smugglers.
That’s why I’m just back from the sixth joint IFAW/New Zealand government workshop on wildlife trade enforcement for front line officers, this time in Vanuatu. The workshop was mainly to raise awareness for Vanuatu officers and resulted in a great local action plan. But for the first time, we were also joined by outstanding participants from previous workshops in Solomon Islands, PNG and Cook Islands, there to build their skills further so they can take on training their colleagues back home. It’s this long term capacity building that can really make a difference.
So it made me happy to read an email I received this week from one of them. He had been involved in the Solomon Islands butterfly seizure and wanted to update us on the case. “Before I conclude, I must not forget to thank you all and honestly say that the contributing factor to this interception is because of the training that you have done for us. Without sharing your knowledge & skills, things will not work out this way....”
That’s what we want to hear because illegal trade is wildlife is big business and stands to become even more lucrative as our biodiversity becomes more and more threatened. Enforcement officers are the front line in the battle to save animals and IFAW is working to support them wherever we can.