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Wildlife chief arrested as net closes on traffickers selling chimpanzees to Far East


2 September 2015 General News

Stuart Winter | Express | 2nd September 2015

ORIGINAL ARTICLE

A TOP African wildlife official is under arrest after an international investigation into the trafficking of chimpanzees to China.

Guinea's former wildlife director Ansoumane Doumbouya faces 10 years in jail after inquiries by Interpol and other agencies into his alleged activities.

When he was detained, he was carrying blank endangered animal export permits in his briefcase.

Doumbouya had allegedly been issuing fraudulent endangered animal licences for manatees, parrots and monkeys, although it is not clear how many chimpanzees were victims of his activities, says a UN-established unit set up to protect great apes.

GRASP - the Great Apes Survival Partnership - describe the arrest as a "major achievement" and say Doumbouya is believed to have played a key role in illegally exporting hundreds of chimpanzees and other endangered wildlife from the West African nation since 2008.

"Ansoumane Doumbouya has been identified for years as central to the illicit traffic of apes from West Africa," said GRASP coordinator Doug Cress. "To finally have him under arrest is a major achievement.

"No one knows exactly how many chimpanzees and other apes were victims of Doumbouya's operations - there are indications he even exported gorillas and bonobos, which aren't endemic to Guinea - but these latest developments are an important step forward for the Rule of Law."

GRASP say that a mission by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to Guinea in 2011 found that 69 chimpanzees had left the country the previous year alone, all destined for Chinese zoos or safari parks.

Investigations led by NGOs and private individuals have revealed that as many as 138 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas have been exported via travel routes established by Chinese development companies.

Doumbouya's signature was also found on fraudulent CITES permits that sent bonobos to Armenia in 2011, GRASP alleges.

 

Doumbouya, who was also Guinea's representative to CITES, is being held in a prison cell in the capital, Conakry, as the investigation continues.

GRASP say that he allegedly issued fraudulent paperwork through the years to export a wide range of wildlife, including manatees, parrots and monkeys and that when his brief case was opened last week in front of the prosecutor it was found to contain blank CITES export permits.

GRASP along with a number of leading international agencies have sent letters of support to Guinea's justice and environmental ministers.

"We are very pleased by the strong message of the Guinean government," said Charlotte Houpline, head of an activist project to enforce trafficking laws. She called the arrest a "landmark in the fight against corruption and complicity facilitating the illegal wildlife trade".

GRASP say the case against Doumbouya also resulted in the arrest of another alleged international trafficker, Thierno Barry, who is believed to have illegally exported protected species to Asia for years.

Despite the mounting evidence, Doumbouya continued to attend international conferences and even rose to Guinea's commander of the National Wildlife and Forestry Mobile Enforcement Brigade, the top agency to counter illegal wildlife trade.

"The issue of corruption and complicity in international conventions is pertinent and has to be tackled more seriously," said Ofir Drori, founding director of the Eco Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement Network (EAGLE). "There are many more such criminals in suit and tie, not just in Africa, and we have our plans against a few."

 

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