AWI Honors Wildlife Protection Heroes
The presentation of the Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award to eleven deserving recipients who demonstrated exemplary wildlife protection efforts was a highlight of the 15th meeting of CITES. This prestigious award presented by the Animal Welfare Institute at a Species Survival Network reception is named in memory of the late Chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement, who pioneered the agency's highly effective use of covert investigations and "sting" operations to uncover illegal wildlife trade.
The 2010 award recipients included rangers, attorneys, investigators, agencies, instructors, and administrators whose diverse skills and activities resulted in exemplary wildlife law enforcement victories. Their accomplishments include providing developing nations and new CITES members with the equipment and technical expertise to enable them to effectively safeguard wildlife threatened by trade. Others used their extraordinary skills and passion for the law and tedious investigation to bring wildlife traffickers to justice. Those on the front lines of law enforcement, one of whom paid the ultimate price, put their lives on the line daily in the pursuit of wildlife protection and the proper enforcement of CITES. Through myriad ways each utilized their unique abilities for the sake of endangered animals.
The CoP15 Clark R. Bavin award recipients were: Dr. Bill Clark, CITES Coordinator for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Department of Law Enforcement; Nitin Desai, Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India’s operation in Central India; John Laigwanani, Sergeant with the Kenya Wildlife Service; The Anti-smuggling Bureau of Guangzhou Customs, China; Andrew McWilliam, Investigative Support Officer, National Wildlife Crime Unit, United Kingdom; Birgith Sloth, Nature Conservation and Management Specialist based in Denmark; The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Ministry of Environment & Forests, India; Captain Li Huadong, Criminal Investigation Brigade in Shenyang Forestry Policy Bureau, China; Attorney Asis Generoso, Director for Law Enforcement, Tanggol Kalikasan, Philippines; and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement Special Operations Unit and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys involved in Operation Central. A posthumous Award was given to Muga Joel Got, a Kenya Wildlife Service ranger who was killed on Christmas Day 2009 by ivory poachers. The awards were presented by Willem Wijnstekers, the outgoing Secretary-General of CITES. Details regarding the recipients can be found at: www.awionline.org/bavinawards.
Additional Details on the 2010 Clark R. Bavin Awardees
On March 16, 2010, in Doha, Qatar, at the 15th Conference of the Parties to CITES, AWI bestowed the prestigious Clark R. Bavin Law Enforcement Award to eleven honorees, including representatives from Israel, India, the US, Kenya, China, the UK, Denmark, and the Philippines. DJ Schubert, AWI’s wildlife biologist and host of the award ceremony stated, "It is a privilege to work in wildlife conservation and to be an advocate for wild animals in desperate need across the globe - and it is an honor to share this evening with the dedicated wildlife protectors who turn words into deeds and stop at nothing to end wildlife crime."
This year's awards were beautiful hammerhead sculptures generously donated by artist John Perry. The following individuals received awards this year, presented by Willem Wijnstekers, the Secretary-General of CITES, in recognition of their achievements in wildlife protection:
Dr. Bill Clark, CITES Coordinator for the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, Department of Law Enforcement -- Dr. Clark has spent 30 years engaged in wildlife law enforcement efforts at national and international levels. His impressive list of accomplishments includes coordinating the donation of equipment, including aircraft and vehicles, to aid in wildlife enforcement activities in Africa, organizing scores of training programs to improve wildlife law enforcement efforts in Africa, and engaging in hands-on conservation of CITES-listed species via species reintroductions, placement of seized animals in sanctuaries, and establishing anti-poaching patrols. He was instrumental in the implementation of Interpol’s Baba and Costa operations targeting illegally ivory markets in Africa which resulted in the arrests of hundreds of ivory dealers and seizure of tons of raw ivory, thousands of ivory carvings, and illegal weapons and ammunition. As the current chairman of Interpol’s Wildlife Crimes Group he has refocused the group toward a more pro-active and operationally-oriented agenda. He has participated in each COP since 1979 and was the lead author of the 1989 CITES proposal that listed African elephants on Appendix I. He has authored two books and nearly 100 articles on a variety of wildlife topics including a soon to be published Interpol-CITES manual on the questioning of wildlife smugglers.
Mr. Nitin Desai, Director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India’s operation in Central India -- Mr. Desai engages in tiger poaching and illegal wildlife trade investigations in Central India. Since 1998, Mr. Desai has collaborated on wildlife trade research projects, managed a network of informers providing critical information used to detect and successfully prosecute numerous wildlife trade cases, conducted or participated in almost two hundred wildlife enforcement training workshops, and provided important training to nearly 7,800 Forest and Police officers in throughout India. He has also traveled internationally to participate in wildlife criminal investigations, observe training programs, or learn about wildlife conservation programs n other countries. His success in combating wildlife crime is evidenced by the lengthy list of investigations and enforcement actions that he, in cooperation with state and federal enforcement agents in India, has successfully pursued resulting in the seizure of a variety of wildlife products including tiger pelts and parts.
United States Office of Law Enforcement agents and U.S. Department of Justice attorneys responsible for the successful completion of Operation Central -- Operation Central was involved in an international investigation of the illegal trafficking in the parts and products of sea turtles and other skins from Mexico to the United States and of sea turtle shells and products into the United States from China. The Mexican investigation focused on suppliers, manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, and the smugglers involved in the illegal transaction of 800 skins of sea turtles, caimans, pythons, and other protected species, 150 boots, and other products. In September 2007, suspects were arrested in the United States with coordinated enforcement activities in Mexico. Operation Central revealed the smuggling of more than $1 million worth of sea turtle parts and products into the United States from the two countries and many of those involved have served jail time with ongoing prosecutions of others. Operation Central stands as the largest probe ever of the unlawful commercial exploitation of sea turtles and was the product of extraordinary efforts by a team of skilled individuals.
Mr. Muga Joel Got, Ranger, Kenya Wildlife Service -- Mr. Got, a ranger with the Kenya Wildlife Service, repeatedly risked his life to protect wildlife and enforce wildlife laws. After four years of service, Ranger Got tragically lost his life on Christmas night 2009 when he was ambushed and shot by ivory poachers and dealers north of Meru National Park. Before that fateful night, during 2009 alone, Ranger Got’s team courageously engaged in five dangerous encounters with elephant poachers. In a statement following Ranger Got’s murder, Peter Leitoro, head of security for the Kenya Wildlife Service reminded everyone of Ranger Got’s diligence, professionalism, trust, integrity, and his courageous nature, never shying away from challenges encountered in the line of duty. Ranger Got’s name is being added to the Heroes’ Monument at the headquarters of the Kenya Wildlife Service as the 43rd ranger killed in the line of duty. On January 5, 2010, a team of rangers captured Ranger Got’s murderers.
Anti-smuggling Bureau of Guangzhou Customs, China -- China’s anti-smuggling Bureau of Guangzhou Customs has made significant progress in combating the illegal wildlife trade within South China’s Guangdong province. Since 2008 its officers have detected 353 cases of illegal wildlife trade, arrested 40 suspects, confiscated 1,600 live endangered animals, and seized nearly 6,000 kilograms and 55,000 specimens of wildlife parts and products, including ivory. It has implemented strategies to improve the inspection of international passengers and items at Guangzhou’s airport, seaport, post offices, and train stations; employed risk and market trend analyses; and developed an early warning system for frontline inspection officers that have led to the wildlife seizures and the confiscation of nearly 28,000 pieces of animal skins imported as “waste hardware.” It has developed a system of cooperation across agencies to more efficiently track incidents of wildlife crime and has engaged in extensive training of its Customs officers as a critical component of its education strategy which also targets those engaged in wildlife trade, airlines, and international airline passengers.
Mr. Li Huadong, Captain of Criminal Investigation Brigade in Shenyang Forestry Policy Bureau, China -- Since 2007, Mr. Huadong has solved 120 cases of wildlife crime resulting in the arrest of 130 criminals and the rescue of over 15,000 wild animals including dozens of raptors and hundreds of reptiles. Mr. Huadong makes extensive use of the Internet to seek out evidence of wildlife crime and to communicate with suspects and is meticulous in collecting evidence to ensure the successful prosecution of wildlife crimes. In August 2008, in a case involving the illegal trade in “cat fur,” he led a raid in which a tiger pelt worth over 70,000 US dollars was seized. Using his investigatory skills, two criminals were subsequently arrested and, after a prosecution aided by Mr. Huadong, were each sentenced to at least a decade in jail. Mr. Huadong also arrested a wildlife trader who had traveled across China for years illegally selling raptors. Though the Internet has become a tool of poachers and illicit wildlife dealers to trade in wildlife products illegally, Mr. Huadong has found ways to use the Internet as an important investigatory tool.
Mr. John Laigwanani, Sergeant, Kenya -- Mr. Laigwanani joined the Kenya Wildlife Service as a ranger in 1990. As a section commander in Meru National Park he has made an immense contribution to the security of wildlife in Meru and within other Kenyan parks. He has placed his own life and the lives of his rangers on the line having participated in several incidents involving armed engagements with poachers. In December of 2009, Mr. Laigwanani led a team of rangers into a successful confrontation of poachers pursuing elephants and other protected wildlife leading to the arrest or deaths of several members of a criminal gang and the seizure of a large cache of weapons. Among the poachers arrested or killed were those individuals responsible for the murder of fellow 2010 Bavin Award recipient Mr. Muga Joel Got.
Mr. Andrew McWilliam, Investigative Support Officer, National Wildlife Crime Unit, United Kingdom -- After 31 years as a police officer, Andrew McWilliam became the lead officer investigating wildlife crime within his police force in the United Kingdom. His commitment and success in apprehending wildlife criminals quickly led him to a full time career of investigating wildlife criminal cases. He uses innovative techniques, prepares educational materials, and conducts enforcement training to improve efforts within and outside the UK to stop wildlife crime. In 2006, he joined the National Wildlife Crime Unit where he now combats wildlife crime on a national and international level. He has been involved in more than 100 enforcement operations leading to numerous successful prosecutions. Collaboration with others engaged in wildlife crime investigations is a key tool in his arsenal that has contributed to his success. He currently is investigating the illicit trade in traditional medicines containing protected species, the illegal import of CITES species, and the laundering of wild-caught birds of prey.
Ms. Birgith Sloth, Nature Conservation -- Ms. Sloth has dedicated her career to ensuring that CITES works. She has provided capacity building training sessions to support the proper implementation of CITES to literally thousands of administrators, wardens, police officers, and customs agents in over two-dozen countries along with providing other services crucial for the proper application and enforcement of CITES. In recent years, Ms. Sloth has worked intensively with Croatian authorities responsible for nature protection, including the implementation of the convention.From 2003 to 2007 she provided training to a large number of Croatian nature protection inspectors and customs and police officers including the provision of all training materials, artifacts used in the training, and the participation by an expert on customs issues, without compensation. This training produced immediate and long-term results and has significantly enhanced the capacity of Croatia to implement CITES.
Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt. of India, New Delhi, India -- The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has only been in operation since 2007. In this short time, it has succeeded in raising the issue of wildlife crime within the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India. Following a January 2009 seizure of two tiger skins and bones by the border authorities on the Indo-Nepal border, a team from the Bureau, using surveillance and inter-agency coordination, captured eleven notorious poachers, traders and middlemen within months, and seized a large collection of tiger parts, and otter and leopard skins. This effort successfully shut down three different poaching units with trans-national linkages. The Bureau has also intercepted and seized more than 100 blended shawls containing shahtoosh wool and, for the first time in India, initiated a criminal proceeding for the creation of fraudulent CITES import documentation.
Mr. Asis Generoso Perez, Attorney, Director for Law Enforcement, Tanggol Kalikasan, The Philippines -- Mr. Asis Generoso Perez is the director of law enforcement at Tanggol Kalikasan, a public interest environmental law firm in The Philippines. Among many accomplishments during his career, Mr. Asis has conducted a series of law enforcement raids of suspected illegal wildlife trade operations and led the investigation into 23 poachers responsible for killing 200 marine turtles in the province of Tawi-Tawi. He co-organized the first Philippine Environmental Law Enforcement Summit, attended by 154 participants and led the development of a Manual of Operations on Wildlife Law Enforcement. As an attorney, Mr. Perez was responsible for the development of judicial procedures for the release of seized wildlife, including endangered species, and, in combining his legal and veterinary medicine background and his role as a university educator, he has established a training program for wildlife law enforcement officers for many areas of The Philippines.