Wednesday, 13 November

Trade in Exotic Animals Jumps in Armenia: Government Averts its Eyes

Hetq has learnt that 60 vervet monkeys, imported from Tanzania to Armenia at the beginning of August, were never quarantined even though they were captured in the wild and might pose a risk of spreading dangerous viruses like Ebola.

The monkeys (with a conservation status of “Least Concern” according to the IUCN Red List) were imported by a company in Armenia called Zoo Fauna

A member of an international organization tracking the animal trade, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Hetq that the monkeys were captured in the wild and thus should have been quarantined before being shipped to Armenia via Beirut.

Hetq’s source said that there is one quarantine site in the Tanzanian region of Arusha and that the monkeys weren’t kept there.

To prevent the spread of Ebola to Armenia, In August of 2014 Armenia’s Food Safety Service (FSS) issued a directive banning the importation of primates, duikers, bats and hairy pigs from Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria before being declared safe. The ban also covers imports of these animals originating from the same countries exported to Armenia via third countries.

Hetq asked the FSS if the 2014 ban was still in effect. The response from the FSS was that the ban is still in place and that the imported vervet monkeys had indeed been quarantined by Zoo Fauna at a site in Yerevan.

Readers will recall that after Hetq broke the story on the trade in endangered animals in Armenia in November 2013, the Armenian police slapped Zoo Fauna Art company owner Artur Khachatryan with criminal contraband charges regarding the importation of two bonobo primates from Guinea. The case is on-going. Interpol is also looking into the illegal trade of endangered species via Armenia.

When asked by Hetq about the importation of the 60 monkeys, the Ministry of Finance responded that the animals were for ‘domestic use’. There were no specifics as to how they would be used.

Hetq’s source claims that an unsuccessful attempt was made to transport the monkeys to Russia a week or two ago.

The endangered bonobo primates, imported by Khachatryan by circumventing customs regulations, subsequently died according to him.

When asked by Hetq if autopsies on the dead bonobos were ever conducted to ascertain the cause of death, the Ministry of Finance responded that the law does not cover conducting autopsies of animals.

One and a half years after a criminal case was launched regarding the dubious importation of endangered animals into Armenia, the finance ministry claims that the investigation is ongoing.

However, given the above response, it would appear that the ministry is more concerned with covering up the crime than getting to the heart of the matter.

Artur Khachatryan continues to trade in animals. And it wouldn’t come as a shock to anyone if government officials didn’t have their fingers ion this lucrative trade.

Gurgen Dumanyan currently serves as the first deputy to Davit Harutyunyan, the Armenian government’s chief of staff. Gurgen Dumanyan owns 10% in the Fauna Zoological Garden established in 2005. The other 70% is owned by Artur Khachatryan.

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