Tag Archives: CITES

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.

 

Credit: USFWS

Celebrating Endangered Species Day!

Today Meagan Racey (right) writes about Endangered Species Day at Stone Zoo in Massachusetts. On the left is Catherine Hibbard; both are public affairs specialists in the Northeast Regional office. Credit: USFWS

Today Meagan Racey (right) writes about Endangered Species Day at Stone Zoo in Massachusetts. On the left is Catherine Hibbard; both are public affairs specialists in the Northeast Regional office. Credit: USFWS

How much does this cost?” asked someone, holding up a seized cobra skin belt at our Endangered Species Day booth at Stone Zoo on Saturday.

It’s not for sale – that was illegally imported into the United States and confiscated by one of our wildlife officers,” I said. My co-worker Catherine Hibbard chimed in, “These items come from rare animals and show the uphill battle that we have to protect wildlife. There’s a demand for items like this.”

All afternoon, we chatted with families about confiscated items (in addition to the cobra belt, we had shoes made from sea turtle, a purse made from a dwarf crocodile, two furs and several other pieces) and the connection between human demand and the exploitation of animals to the point of endangerment or even extinction.

The snow leopard and wolf furs weren’t the only attractions pulling people toward our booth. We set up a small piping plover exhibit with sand, symbolic fencing and eggs, since Stoneham, Mass., is near the coast and beaches where threatened piping plovers nest.

A girl uses the biologist binoculars to look for the piping plover eggs in our exhibit. Biologists and volunteers rope off nesting areas for piping plovers because the birds and eggs are very hard to see. They need protection from disturbance, which can cause birds to abandon the nests. Credit: USFWS

A girl uses the biologist binoculars to look for the piping plover eggs in our exhibit. Biologists and volunteers rope off nesting areas for piping plovers because the birds and eggs are very hard to see. They need protection from disturbance, which can cause birds to abandon the nests. It’s important for people to be aware of these areas and help protect families of this threatened bird. Credit: USFWS

Did you know we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act? Check out stories of endangered plant and animal conservation in the Northeast – We’re sharing them throughout the year!

“Do you see the tiny eggs in the sand? We don’t want to bother them so they can hatch,” a mother said to her son. “Now, when you see these signs and rope on the beach, you won’t try to go inside, right?

Armed with a plover temporary tattoo, he marched over to the snow leopard exhibit with his new knowledge and a “Share the Beach” activity book.

Some of the kids dove into our “Be a Biologist” section. They tried on the wildland firefighter helmet and jacket – and even tried to carry the survival pack. One particularly adventurous boy stepped in to the XXL waders we brought along.

Our goal was for visitors to leave our booth and be able to know the name of one imperiled animal and one way that we protect it.

Whether they explored the confiscated wildlife items, colored or drew endangered species, or learned about piping plover fencing, we hope our visitors walked away with a new bit of information about endangered animals and the need to protect them for our future.

My spring break: Thailand, wildlife trade and the control room

Marissa in the Committee II meeting room on the last day of the conference. Photo courtesy of Marissa.

Today you’re hearing from Marissa Altmann, a College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine) student and the first youth U.S. delegate to the first youth delegate for the international conference on wildlife trade, known as CITES COP 16. Photo courtesy of Marissa.

The legal trade in plants and animals provides most of the world with food, timber, medicines and other materials. On the other side is the illegal trade of wildlife. It involves enormous flows of money second only to the drug trade.

Human uses of animals and plants are often culturally, emotionally, and even politically driven. As a student at the College of the Atlantic in Maine’s Bar Harbor, I believe we need to understand these relationships to find practicable ways to conserve our natural resources.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora, an international treaty that regulates the import and export of threatened species, seeks to do this.

And this March, I got to be the first youth delegate that the U.S. has ever sent to its convention, the 16th Conference of Parties, called CITES COP 16, in Bangkok, Thailand.

Watch a video on COP16 sucesses or click here for more about U.S. CoP16 priorities and outcomes.

Wildlife trade involves complex networks of biology, policy, and human-wildlife relationships–all of which I studied while pursuing my undergraduate degree in human ecology.

CITES is a well-supported and flexible convention that considers sustainable use, livelihoods, conservation management plans, and scientific research collections like the mammal collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, where I interned during college.

Today you're hearing from Marissa Altmann, a College of the Atlantic student and the first youth U.S. delegate to the first youth delegate for the international conference on wildlife trade, known as CITES COP 16. Photo courtesy of Marissa Altmann

Photo, courtesy of Marissa, is from Wat Arun in Bangkok, Thailand, during the March 2013 conference.

I was able to attend the COP as a youth delegate because I expressed interest, since I knew it would be the perfect chance for me to experience these negotiations and gain a more complete understanding of the global state of wildlife trade. I was nominated by a Congressman, the former President of my college, and people that I met in Washington, D.C. I attended on behalf of the mammal collections that I helped with at the Smithsonian.

Being a delegate was amazing. I got to know the rest of the U.S. delegation–dedicated employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, State Department, Forest Service, and U.S. Agency for International Development. We ate meals together, sat together during committee meetings, and worked together in the control room (them on negotiations, me on social media and papers for school).

I saw firsthand how species are granted protections under the convention, how working groups are formed, and how conservation plans are discussed. I was exposed to a plethora of information, and left feeling confident about my choice to study science-human-policy relationships with the goal of applying an interdisciplinary perspective to environmental and wildlife conservation.

My interest in the natural world came from my parents, who both have advanced degrees in the sciences. When I was younger, I loved going to natural history museums, going on hikes, and identifying every living thing that I could find. I realized the importance of preserving biodiversity once I began taking classes in biology. It wasn’t until college that I really understood, through my experiences in natural history collections, how little we know about the organisms that we share our planet with, and how much we depend on one another.

I decided to take some time before selecting a graduate program to gain experience working at the ground level of conservation efforts. Communities help inform science and policy by contributing their knowledge of the natural world; their involvement is needed to create and enforce viable solutions to environmental problems.

Marissa curating Epomophorus (a genus of bat) specimens at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in summer 2011. Photo courtesy of Marissa.

Marissa curating Epomophorus (a genus of bat) specimens at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in summer 2011. Outside of classes, Marissa says she likes trail running, yoga, cooking and spending time with friends. “I usually have some sort of research project going on, like studying bats in Acadia National Park, or the human-wildlife relationships described in memoirs and field notes from a Roosevelt expedition,” she says. Photo courtesy of Marissa.

The opportunity to serve as the U.S. youth delegate at CITES COP 16 was a wonderful chance for me to bring a youth perspective to the proceedings and to report the negotiations to an environmentally-conscious twitter audience. Hopefully I have encouraged a wide range of students to become engaged in these important issues, because I am convinced that crossing disciplines is the way to solve these kinds of real-world challenges.

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