Friday, 15 November

What Illegal Animal Trafficking? Ministry's "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" Response

Out of sight, out of mind…It’s sort of a mantra in Armenia, especially among government agencies.

Take the case of the Ministry of Environemnt and its attitude to an endangered African bonobo monkey that recently showed up as an attraction in a local restaurant.

Hetq broke the story on November 28, when we attempted the follow the trail of how a bonobo made it to the newly opened Jambo Park in Kotayk Province.

Native to the Congo Basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the species was listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List in 1996, and is threatened by habitat destruction and human population growth.

The export, sale or transport of rare animals is regulated by the CITES (the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which Armenia signed on to in 2009.

In Armenia, the Ministry of Nature Protection (MNP) is tasked with seeing that the obligations of the convention are adhered to. But it seems that the MNP isn’t losing any sleep over the Jambo Park bonobo or interested in how it got to Armenia.

Artyom Vardanyan, the owner of Jambo Park, claims he purchased the monkey legally. When we pressed Vardanyan on the matter, he directed us to Artur Khachatryan, from whom he allegedly “leased” the animal.

Khachatryan claims the monkey wasn’t taken from the wild but was captive bred In Guinea. Our colleagues in Guinea now tell us that there is no such facility in Guinea.

So what was the response of the MNP to our inquiry?

Basically – out of sight, out of mind…

The MNP states that it had never received a claim to import monkeys into Armenia and that it has never issued any such permits. In particular, the ministry claims it never received a filing to have our bonobo and four other chimpanzee species to be registered in the CITES accounts.

Thus, the MNP concludes that it can provide no further information on the matter. Case closed…

The MNP fails to comprehend its obligations as a signatory to the CITES Convention; i.e., to track down any credible claims that illegal trafficking of endangered animals is taking place.

So why is the MNP so reluctant to look into the matter? After all, Hetq supplied it with all the pertinent facts to launch an investigation. Might it be that the MNP is involved in such trafficking?

Hetq then wrote to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Maybe Armenia’s top sleuths were on the case?

No such luck. More bureaucratic red tape…

They wrote back saying that we would have to send copies of our inquiry to the Police Department’s Anti-Organized Crime Division before any investigation could be launched.

Out of sight, out of mind…a prevalent work ethic here in Armenia.

Photo: Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan

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Comments (1)
1. Gerard13:17 - 23 February, 2014
First of all a Bonobo is an Ape and not a monkey... This case stinks as money talks in casses like this. The only place this Bonobo came from was the forrest of the DRC to which it should be returned (the sanctuary for Bonobo´s in the DRC). As Always where is CITES ???!!!
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