An early highlight of the 16th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties was the presentation of AWI’s Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards, honoring those who have demonstrated remarkable effort to protect wildlife.
This award is named in memory of the late chief of the US 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 awards were presented by CITES Secretary-General John E. Scanlon at a March 5 reception hosted by the Species Survival Network and Freeland, a Thai group combatting illicit wildlife trade. They were bestowed upon nearly the entire “village” necessary to combat wildlife crime, including enforcement officers and staff in the field, a forensic scientist, an NGO that cares for confiscated wildlife, police and forestry agencies, and individuals who oversee and coordinate law enforcement investigations.
The 2013 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award recipients are:
- Marco Fiori, chief operational officer at the National CITES Investigations Unit of the State Forestry Corps, Italy, for his over-20-year career preventing illegal wildlife trade;
- David Higgins, manager of the INTERPOL Environmental Crime Programme, for his work in establishing this key INTERPOL program, which has a dozen officers spread across Europe, Asia and America;
- The Jiangmen Customs District Office, China, for combating the illegal shark fin trade in China;
- Kittipong Khaosamang, deputy commander of the Royal Thai Police Central Investigations Bureau, Natural Resource and Environmental Crime Division, for his efforts to combat wildlife traffickers and corruption;
- Samsundar Ramdeen, game warden of the Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division, Trinidad and Tobago, for a 36-year career as a game warden in which he distinguished himself with diligence and a serious approach to wildlife conservation;
- Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez, executive director of International Animal Rescue Indonesia, for her work to provide sanctuary and rehabilitation for confiscated wildlife, including slow loris and orangutans;
- The Uttarakhand Forestry and Police Departments, India, for their exemplary work in investigating and seizing illegal wildlife;
- Bonnie Yates, scientist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Clark R. Bavin National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory, for her pioneering work in both wildlife law enforcement and the science of wildlife forensics;
- Six Chadian rangers gunned down while protecting animals at Zakouma National Park; and
- Thirteen Kenya Wildlife Service rangers and other enforcement staff who died in the line of duty while trying to protect wild animals and their habitats.
A full report on the 2013 Bavin awards and the recipients can be found below.
Additional Details on the 2013 Clark R. Bavin Awardees
On March 5th, 2013, in Bangkok, Thailand, at the 16th Conference of the Parties to CITES, AWI gave out its 2013 Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Awards, recognizing outstanding efforts to combat wildlife crime. The awards—beautiful elephant sculptures generously donated by artist John Perry—were presented by John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES, at the Species Survival Network and Freeland reception.
Recipients included wardens in the field, a scientist in a forensic lab, individuals who oversee and coordinate law enforcement investigations and enforce wildlife laws, police and forestry departments, and an NGO that cares for confiscated wildlife, trains enforcement officers, and investigates wildlife crime. Tragically, some recipients gave their very lives for the cause, and were recognized posthumously. DJ Schubert, AWI's wildlife biologist and co-host of the award ceremony stated, “It is a privilege to work in wildlife conservation and 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.”
The following individuals and organizations received awards this year:
Marco Fiori, Superintendent, CITES Investigations Team, Corpo Forestale dello Stato, Italy
Marco Fiori is the Chief Operational Officer at the National CITES Investigation Unit of the State Forestry Corps in Italy, and serves as Italy's point person on Interpol's working group on crimes related to protected wildlife. Mr. Fiori has trained recruits at the Italian School for Forest Guards on CITES and anti-poaching issues, and has been a guest lecturer at numerous national and international courses on CITES and wildlife crime. He was involved in the development of genetic assessment techniques to aid in the identification of rare primate species, define familial relationships between species, and establish DNA fingerprinting of hundreds of seized CITES-protected birds. A host of operations Mr. Fiori has coordinated have resulted in the seizure of numerous live animals and animal products.
David Higgins, Manager, Interpol, Environmental Crime Programme, International
David Higgins has played a pivotal role in building Interpol's Environmental Crime Programme, helping to launch Interpol projects including PREDATOR (tigers), WISDOM (elephants and rhinos), LEAF (illegal logging), and SCALE (illegal fisheries). These projects in turn led to nine operations that successfully targeted criminals and syndicates exploiting wildlife, include PREY (Asian big cats), WORTHY (African elephants and rhinos), LIBRA (pangolins), CAGE (wild caught birds), STOCKTAKE (illegal marketing of endangered species), TIGRE (tigers), RAMP (reptiles and amphibians), MOGATLE (African elephants and rhinos), and TRAM (traditional oriental medicines). Mr. Higgins also organized the first ever meeting of the International Chiefs of Environmental Compliance and Enforcement; created the National Environmental Security Taskforces (involving police, wildlife, customs, revenue and others to plan and conduct cooperative efforts against wildlife crime); instituted law enforcement training programs; and enhanced wildlife law enforcement efforts in developing countries.
Jiangmen Customs District Office, Guangdong Province, People's Republic of China
The Jiangmen Customs District Office combats wildlife trade in a region that is a hotspot for such trade—including the trade in shark fins. In December 2012, the office exposed a massive case of tax fraud and the illegal laundering of 270 tons of shark fins by the Jiangmen seafood company in collusion with local shark fin processing businesses and companies located in Hong Kong and Taiwan. This was the largest seizure of shark fins in China's history. The investigation has led to nine arrests of individuals for illegal wildlife trade and tax crimes.
Police Major General Kiattipong Khaosamang, Commander of Surat Thani Province, Royal Thai Police, Thailand
Police Major General Kiattipong Khaosamang of the Royal Thai Police Central Investigations Bureau has spent 29 years combatting wildlife crime in Thailand. He has waged war on wildlife trafficking and corruption with great success and at great risk to his own life. Mr. Khaosamang's efforts have reshaped Thailand from a wildlife trade hub to a leader in wildlife conservation, making it far more difficult to traffic wildlife through the country. Among his many successes is the dismantling of a regional tiger trafficking syndicate involving organized crime and corrupt officials. In addition, Mr. Khaosamang and his team have dismantled international exotic animal smuggling rings between Thailand, the Middle East, and Russia.
Samsundar Ramdeen, Game Warden (retired), Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division, Trinidad and Tobago
Samsundar Ramdeen spent 36 years as a game warden with the Forestry Division in Trinidad and Tobago, and the last five years working as a Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer for Interpol. He retired in 2011. Mr. Ramdeen left an indelible mark on wildlife law enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago—elevating the prosecution of wildlife crime in the country and leading to the country's first ever National Wildlife Policy. The efforts of Mr. Ramdeen and his staff led to Trinidad and Tobago becoming home to the second largest population of leatherback sea turtles, after being a leatherback slaughterhouse for years. Trinidad and Tobago had been a major transshipment point for illicit wildlife from South America. Mr. Ramdeen led many operations scouring shipping ports and airports, intercepted many illegal shipments of birds, small mammals, and reptiles, all with successful prosecutions of those involved. He was shot three times in the line of duty.
Dr. Karmele Llano Sánchez, Executive Director, International Animal Rescue, Indonesia
Dr. Sánchez's organization, International Animal Rescue, provides rehabilitation services to wild animals, including primates and other species rescued from the wild or seized as a result of confiscations. It operates a sanctuary, rescue, and rehabilitation center in Indonesia for confiscated slow loris, who are coveted as pets and are frequent targets of illegal international wildlife trade. Dr. Sánchez and her staff engage in public awareness campaigns about the slow loris and its conservation, provide seminars for enforcement staff, and—in cooperation with law enforcement officials—conduct enforcement operations in wildlife markets throughout Indonesia.
Uttarakhand Forestry Department and Uttarakhand Police Department, India
This award is bestowed in recognition of the combined efforts of the Uttarakhand Forest and Police Departments to combat wildlife crime in Uttarakhand, India. From April 2010 to August 2012, the two departments undertook nearly 100 seizures of illegally trafficked wildlife—a seizure rate higher than any of their counterparts in other Indian states. These seizures have included a variety of species protected by CITES, including big cats, reptiles, amphibians, Asian elephants, bears, crocodiles and more. In the vast majority of these cases, the accused were successfully prosecuted and penalized. The collective efforts of these departments have raised the profile of wildlife crime law enforcement and led to an increase in the deterrence of wildlife crime in Uttarakhand.
Bonnie Yates, Senior Forensic Scientist (retired), National Fish and Wildlife Forensic Laboratory, United States
Bonnie Yates of the US Fish and Wildlife Service was one of the first classically trained morphologists to apply science in a forensic setting. She is a pioneer in both wildlife law enforcement and the science of wildlife forensics. In more than 20 years of service, Ms. Yates developed new techniques for identifying evidence in wildlife criminal investigations, which has improved the enforcement of CITES. During her career, Ms. Yates was involved in more than 2,000 forensic law enforcement cases and has analyzed over 7,000 pieces of evidence. Her efforts have enhanced protections for an impressive array of animals, while her work in the classroom has provided training to scores of U.S. inspectors and agents as well as law enforcement personnel in other countries.
The following individuals were recognized posthumously, for paying the ultimate sacrifice in defending wildlife:
Rangers Florece Hadia Abae, Mohamed Osman Abdi, Haron Kipyegon Langa, Gabriel Mghalu Malemba, Bernark Mwakio, Seneu Ole Narankaik, Daniel Njagi, and Francis Otieno Ochieng; Corporals Dismas Kimtai, Adan Sheikh Mohamed, and Koyati Parsaip; Sergeant Bake Alio Adan; Pilot/Warden II Moses Lelesit, Kenya
Each of these Bavin Award recipients were employed by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and perished in the line of duty. Most were shot and killed by poachers during anti-poaching efforts. Others fell victim to air and vehicle accidents, wild animal attacks, drowning, and electrocution. Rangers Florence Hadia Abae and Francis Otieno Ochieng had been with KWS for seven years. They were known for their commitment, diligence, and professionalism. They were involved in a de-snaring operation near Tsavo National Park on March 2, 2012. A gang of poachers ambushed and killed them. Ms. Abae was the first female KWS ranger killed in the line of duty. Sergeant Bake Alio Adan had 22 years of service with KWS. He had been involved in three shootouts with ivory poachers since CoP15. On February 11, 2012 when tracking poachers responsible for killing eight elephants in the Marsabit National Reserve, he was ambushed and killed by poachers. They are among 56 KWS rangers/wardens killed in the line of duty since the previous CITES Conference of the Parties.
Rangers Idriss Adoum, Daoud Aldjouma, Hassan Djibrine, Djibrine Adoum Goudja, Zakaria Ibrahim, and Brahim Khamis, Chad
In the dawn hours of September 3, 2012, these six Chadian rangers were gunned down during their morning prayers. Five were killed and Djibrine is believed to be dead but his body has not been found. They were targeted due to their efforts to combat elephant poaching in Zakouma National Park, where the elephant population has plummeted since 2005. They died trying to protect the last of the elephant herds found in the vast stretches between the Sahara Desert and the Congo forest.