10:18, March 9, 2015
Wild animals imported to Armenia are not only circumventing monitoring by the customs inspectorate but also that of the veterinary inspectorate.
Staffers of the Veterinary Inspectorate, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Food Safety Service, must first register and examine such animals before being admitted to Armenia, Only when they are certified as free from disease are they allowed in.
This is how the law is supposed to work. The reality on the ground is another matter.
Hovhannes Mkrtchyan, who heads the Veterinary Inspectorate, assured Hetq that such animals are quarantined for another month under constant supervision by inspectorate staffers.
Hetq has written quite extensively regarding the import to and export from Armenia of endangered animal species registered in International Red Book. In particular, we have written about the case of 4 pygmy chimpanzees (bonobo), 7 common chimpanzees, 4 Diana monkeys, mandrills, and mangabeys imported to Armenia.
These animals, it turns out, circumvented any veterinary monitoring before entering Armenia.
Hetq wrote to the Veterinary Inspectorate, asking that it provide health documents regarding the bonobos (Pan paniscus) and common chimps (Pan troglodutes) imported to Armenia between 2010 and 2014.
In response, the inspectorate wrote that no such animals were imported to Armenia in the past three years.
Leaving aside the fact that the individual who has imported such animals is making a profit from them, such official negligence opens the door for a variety of contagious viruses to enter the country.
Vivek Menon, the South Asia Regional Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), says that numerous diseases are transmitted as a result of the illegal trade of wild animals and birds. He says that when passengers arrive, you can check them. But you can’t in the case of illegal shipment. That cargo can also bring in diseases. Essentially, monitoring of the sector is impossible. Even the CITES periodically says that the health of wild animals is an important factor on which governments must work, and that governments must focus on the trade in wild animals.
In addition to the fact that Armenia’s State Revenue Committee has no stats regarding the importation of a pygmy chimp on display at Jambo Exotic Park, and that a case of smuggling is now underway, scores of primates and monkeys are being imported with invalid documents.
We had Charles Mackay and Elsayed Mohamed, international experst for the CITES, examine one such document. They found at least three errors, of which even one makes the document invalid.
The following are lacking in the document:
- Exportation, importation or re-exportation permission
- The document was dated as signed after the expiration date
- The document’s stamp security numbers are not the same.
|Charles Mackay has been working for the United Kingdom’s Revenue and Customs for the past 36 years and has served as a CITES expert for the past twenty. When Hetq asked Mr. Mackay how he would react to such a document in the case of the United Kingdom, he said, “Seeing all this, we would immediately raise the alarm and respond by sending inquiries to the exporter country. This is an unacceptable and invalid document.”|
Examining the legal permits of Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection, the state agency tasked with coordinating implementation of CITES provisions in the country, we also came across a number of impermissible errors. (Hetq obtained these documents after a one year Freedom of Information court case).
According to the experts, the document must show the details of the importer and exporter. In the document below, the same person, Armen Khachatryan, appears as both importer and exporter. This, in their estimation, is unacceptable.
Despite the fact that Armenia signed the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2009, it doesn’t know where such endangered animals are disappearing to once having reached its shores.
Hetq spoke to the three experts, who had come to Armenia as part of a five day training course organized by the Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC) regarding the prevention of the illegal trade of wildlife. The training was funded by Armenia’s Ministry of Nature Protection and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.