Category Archives: Law enforcement

Crossing the line: Illegal Exports of Monkey Blood

Illegal transport of squirrel monkey blood has one company paying the price.  As a result of undercover investigation “Operation Sanguis” led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the owner of BioChemed Services Inc, a biological product company, has pleaded guilty of creating and submitting false labels of animal products to avoid screening requirements. BioChemed is a broker of human and animal blood products, supplying research companies with samples for biomedical research.

To avoid over-exploitation of wildlife, purchasing and shipping animal blood requires special permitting. The Office of Law Enforcement discovered that the owner of BioChemed, Philip Lloyd, and/or his employees, intentionally packaged and shipped animal blood falsely labeled as human blood to avoid permits and higher costs. In this attempt to evade the law, Lloyd also shipped the correct labels later in a separate FedEx envelope, which was not subject to inspection by service officials. This international order to Canada was placed in January 2014 by a Service special agent working covertly.

The international shipment contained blood from squirrel monkeys, an animal protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”). CITES is an international agreement that protects fish, wildlife and plant populations that could be harmed as a result of trade and restricts transport of at-risk species. Without proper permits, these actions violate the treaty and puts wildlife at risk.

Squirrel monkey photo by Tambako The Jaguar/ Creative Commons

Lloyd pleaded guilty in Federal Court in the Eastern District of Virginia.   In March 2017, Lloyd was sentenced to four months incarceration and a $250,000 fine.

In addition, Service special agents collaboratively worked with Homeland Security Investigations who coordinated with South Korean investigators.  Based on information uncovered during the investigation, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested the owner of Biomedex Korea, for violations of the Korean Infectious Disease Control and Prevention Act, Wildlife Protection and Management Act, and customs law.  The Korean subject admitted that from 2008 to 2016, she smuggled animal blood plasma and serum, labeled as “human blood” over 260 times into South Korea from the United States.

 

Hook, line and sinker: Cops and kids connect through fishing

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city's first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event.

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event. Photo Credit: USFWS

“I want to catch a fish!” These words filled the air on a hot August morning as more than 40 youth from Hartford, Connecticut took park in the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders fishing event at Riverside Park.

The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program aims to get urban youth outdoors, teaches them to fish, and connects them to nature, while at the same time, fosters positive relationships with law enforcement and safety professionals in their community.

The event was an outstanding success thanks to all the partners who coordinated and supported the program.

Staff from Connecticut's Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection CARE program instruct youth on how to properly coast with the fishing poles.

Keith Syrett, an interprestive guide with Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection instructs youth on how to properly cast with the fishing poles. Photo credit: USFWS

The City of Hartford Police and Fire Departments contributed time to help the young anglers cast, bait hooks and reel in any fish they caught. Staff from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s angler education program taught kids how to cast, tie knots and identify fish. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge educated kids about the Connecticut River Watershed through its Watershed on Wheels traveling exhibit. And the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center helped transport kids from their neighborhoods to the park in order to participate in the event.

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other "goodies" provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other “goodies” provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization that maintains Riverside Park and other city parks, provided a great location to hold the event, and worked with Bass Pro Shops to donate a rod and reel to every participant.

Members of each organization also spent time, energy and money planning, organizing and gathering resources so that all kids who attended the event would have a meaningful experience connecting with diverse groups within their community.

A Hartford city officer helps and enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

Hartford City Officer Christopher Chanaca helps an enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

“We are teaching our youth that the Connecticut River is a tremendous fishery, right in their back yard. Through this exciting collaboration we are giving them tools to enjoy their free time and learn about their natural environment”, said Craig Mergins, Directory of Community Event and Engagement at Riverfront Recapture.

Kids got a close-up and personal look at the city's fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

Kids get a close-up and personal look at the city’s fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

The program also supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. By partnering with police and fire departments, the Conte Refuge hopes to create connections within urban communities in the Connecticut River watershed. Through these connections, the Refuge aims to encourage urban youth to feel comfortable in nature and foster a love of the outdoors.

Ideally, with a new fishing rod in hand and the skills they learned at the event, these young kids will continue to fish, carrying with them the desire to protect and conserve our natural world, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.

Photo credit: USFWS

Photo credit: USFWS

 

 

Common yellowthroat at Sourland Mtn, NJ

Energy company sentencing upholds U.S. commitment to protecting birds

CT warbler

Connecticut warblers were among the songbirds killed at AES Laurel Mountain’s wind energy facility in 2011. This photo is from Flickr Creative Commons, user Matt Stratmoen.

Following the deaths of over 400 migratory birds at its wind energy facility, company AES Laurel Mountain, Inc., was recently sentenced to two counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The case demonstrates that protections for migrating birds are just as important now as they were a century ago, when the Migratory Bird Treaty was signed.

This foundational treaty, and the three that followed, formalized the protection of birds that migrate across international borders. In the U.S., our agency leads the effort to work with federal, tribal, state and other partners to conserve, protect and manage bird populations and their habitats. Today, we share treaties with Canada, Mexico, Russia and Japan aimed at the protection of migratory birds.

For hundreds of years, birds were seen as an unlimited resource for the taking. Overhunting, human disturbance and habitat loss hammered the populations of many birds. These pressures led to the extinction of one of the most abundant birds in North America–the passenger pigeon, once estimated at a population of 3-5 billion. The 19th-century fashion trend of using feathers in hats devastated bird populations, causing the annual slaughter of nearly 5 million birds including the piping plover shorebird. At the turn of the century, women came together to boycott this fashion craze, providing the needed spark start the new trend of conservation.

FROM FLICKR: Oregon Inlet, NC. Bird in basic plumage. Very cold day but the shorebirds were finding plenty of food. After failing to find a Purple Sandpiper at the inlet my attention turned towards the other shorebirds none of them as confiding as this bird pulling worms from the ground at a pretty good rate.

Threats to piping plovers have changed over the past 150 years, from hunting for the hat trade in the 19th century to the current high demand for the Atlantic Coast’s limited beach. Photo from Flickr Creative Common user Julio Mulero.

Today, birds in the U.S. continue to face disturbance and habitat loss. New threats have also emerged: powerlines, pesticide and poisoning, communication towers, wind turbines, and oil pits. Our agency works closely with industry and agriculture to minimize and, when possible, avoid effects to migratory birds.

At AES Laurel Mountain’s wind energy facility in Barbour County, West Virginia, the hundreds of birds found dead in October 2011 weren’t victim to the blades of their wind turbines. Rather, improper lighting during dense fog lured migrating blackpoll and Connecticut warblers, common yellowthroats, ovenbirds and other birds to the wind farm. The combination of fog and extensive lighting confuse birds and trap them in the light, leading to deaths by exhaustion or collision with facility structures. Best management practices avoid this by minimizing unnecessary lighting, down shielding lights away from the horizon, and using lights operated by motion sensors.

 

Common yellowthroat at Sourland Mtn, NJ

Common yellowthroats spend summers in the Northeast. Photo from Flickr Creative Commons user Bob Devlin.

As a result of the investigation by our agency, AES Laurel Mountain pled guilty and was sentenced to two counts of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The sentencing included a total fine of $30,000 and community service where the company agreed to pay $48,300 to the West Virginia Land Trust for conservation of avian species.

While law enforcement is critical to bird conservation, it’s not the only way we can help. Anyone can get involved! Whether you contribute as a partner in a grant project, engage with local organizations through the Urban Conservation Treaty for Migratory Birds program, or buy a Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation (Duck) Stamp – supporting one of the nation’s oldest and most successful conservation programs – YOU have an opportunity to play a crucial role in bird conservation. Learn more about what we do for birds and their conservation and how you can help.