Indians, Pakistanis held in Nepal with live chimpanzees, others from Nigeria

Fifteen years after four gorillas were shipped from Nigeria to Malaysia on falsified export documents, another major controversy is brewing as the
Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police has arrested six persons, including three Indians and a Pakistani national for allegedly smuggling protected live animals of various species to Nepal from Nigeria.

Those arrested are Sanjeev Bhari, 40, of Kathmandu; Raj Kumar Tiwari, 42, of Bara; and Mohammad Usman, 34; Mohammad Faim, 35, and Mohammad Sherif Shahid, 35, of India; and Jawaid Aslam Khan, 55, of Pakistan.

With the current development and failure to stem illegal wildlife trade, Nigeria may recommended for sanction by the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). The Convention was signed by representatives from 80 countries in Washington, DC, on March 3, 1973, and entered into force on July 1, 1975. As at January 2016, there were 181 parties to the Convention.

Last year, Singapore authorities intercepted and seized an air shipment of illegal ivory and pangolin scales from Nigeria, worth $1.3 million at the Changi Airfreight Centre. The 0.8 tonne shipment originated from Lagos and was on its way to Vientiane, Laos via Singapore. The shipment was labeled “complete wigs of synthetic textile materials”.

CIB spokesperson, Jeevan Shrestha said two chimpanzees, eight monkeys, seven golden pheasants, two ringneck pheasants, 38 pigeons and 65 parrots were seized from them.

Specifically, acting on a special tip-off, CIB had raided the house of Bhari in Bansbari, Kathmandu, on October 18, leading to seizure of wild animals and birds, according to a report by The Himalayan Times.

The final destination of the apes are said to be India. “Preliminary investigation suggests the racketeers would smuggle apes to India from Nigeria by making Nepal their transit,” Shrestha said. The apes were brought to Nepal from the African country by air, but officials at Tribhuvan International Airport failed to intercept the animal species.

They have been handed over to District Forest Office, Kathmandu, to initiate legal action under National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. Anyone involved in the trade of protected species may be slapped with a fine up to Rs 100,000 and a jail term of five to 15 years. Meanwhile, the animals and birds rescued alive have been sent to the Central Zoo.

Usman is a repeat offender and was arrested with 109 tortoises and 162 birds of different species from Kathmandu in June last year. Police raided a house and recovered the reptiles and birds kept in boxes and cages. Officials said the tortoises, which weigh three to five kilograms each, and the birds, including several varieties of parrots, were smuggled into Nepal from India.

It is believed the seized animals were to be illegally transported to China, where they would end up in restaurants or thriving markets in Vietnam selling animals and birds.

Nigeria was suspended in 2005 by CITES because of rampant illegal trade in wildlife and lack of strong legislation to discourage poaching and readmitted in August 2011. The country was also placed on a trade ban list for failing to meet their obligations to protect elephants and deal with the rampant illegal ivory trade.

Under the 1975 treaty that created CITES, countries including Nigeria pledged to ensure that international trade in animal and plant species was not detrimental to the survival of wildlife populations.

CITES member countries also pledged to regulate the import, export, re-export, and introduction from the sea of certain animal and plant species.Nigeria has maintained that it is committed to prevent species from becoming endangered or extinct because of international trade.

In 2008, the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) Act was set up to enforce all environmental laws, guidelines, policies, standards and regulations in Nigeria.

As part of the federal government’s effort to appease CITES, NESREA was given powers to collaborate with relevant judicial authorities in establishing mobile courts to expeditiously dispense with cases of violation of environmental regulations. Efforts to get NESREA comment on the latest incident proved abortive.

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