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Endangered primates confiscated

posted on 30/01/2002: 2517 views

The Environmental Research and Wildlife Development Agency (ERWDA), with the assistance of Abu Dhabi Police, on Monday raided two pet shops in the capital and confiscated seven endangered primates, including two baby chimpanzees.

Acting on a tip-off, ERWDA officials confiscated two African baby chimpanzees, both about four-months-old, two African Vervet monkeys and three South American tamarins from a shop in the Pet Souq near Port Zayed. An investigating team from ERWDA also spotted two vervet monkeys in a nearby shop, but the shopkeeper hid them as the officials approached.

The team and Lt. Mohammed Abdullah Al Hassani, deputy director of the city police station, left that shop owner with a warning. The pair of young chimpanzees had been stored in a small cage, and were priced at Dh17,000. The tamarins and vervet monkeys were listed at Dh7,500 and Dh2,500 each respectively.

The ERWDA team, headed by Dr Amrita G. de Soyza, Head of Terrestrial Research Centre at ERWDA, included two veterinary surgeons, Dr Frederic Launay and Dr Arshad Toosey, Senior Conservation Officer Pritpal Singh Soorae, and Assistant Mammamial Ecologist Abdul Rab Al Hameri. Dr de Soyza told Gulf News that the baby chimpanzees had not been in the store a long time, as they were in good condition but terrified.

The shop owner claimed to have bought the primates at the Sharjah souq. ERWDA officials also said the animals will be sent to a rehabilitation centre in the UAE and then possibly returned to their countries of origin. "The trade of these endangered animals and their products has to be discouraged through education," Dr de Soyza said. "Most of these animals, which come under CITES' list of endangered species, are vanishing because of trade and private collections," he said.

Dr Launay, who is also the UAE Director of the World Wide Fund for Nature, said the federal government is moving to put more restrictions on the trade in endangered animals and pets. Although officials have not yet confirmed the exact species of the tamarin monkeys, both tamarin monkeys and chimpanzees are listed on CITES' Appendix I and II.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has been established to protect and control the trade in wild flora and fauna, and covers more than 300,000 species of animals and plants, including most species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. The appendices list species according to their worldwide status: Appendix I lists species that are both critically endangered and threatened with extinction, Appendix II lists species that are highly endangered but not yet threatened with extinction. Yesterday's raid is an example of the government's move to clamp down on illegal trade in animals in the UAE, a trade that has recently drawn rebuke from the Geneva-based CITES.

In November, according to an ERWDA official, the CITES Secretariat appealed to its 145 member-countries not to trade in protected species with the UAE. The recommendation means that countries that are party to CITES will not accept or issue the documentation necessary for the transfer of CITES-listed animals to and from the UAE. CITES officials told Gulf News in December that trade suspensions like these are seldom recommended, but that CITES was particularly concerned about the trade in illegal caviar and animals – particularly falcons, houbara bustards and cheetahs.

Most countries around the world have federal legislation linked directly to CITES, and it is this legislation that helps with implementation and enforcement of the convention. The UAE government is currently in constant touch with the CITES Secretariat in Geneva, Dr. Launay said.

Details about upcoming legislation and enforcement powers are expected next week. Dr Launay said since the UAE is a signatory of the convention, the government is determined to rectify the rules that protect these endangered animals. For local enforcement, Lt. Al Hassani said police personnel always ready to respond to such situations. thanked ERWDA for its swift action to rescue the endangered animals. (The Gulf News)


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