A better system to deal with confiscated live animals urgently needed
Almere The Netherlands, 23 March ‘17 – Today the outgoing Dutch Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Martijn van Dam and CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon have paid a joint official visit to AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection in the Netherlands. AAP is an internationally-recognized rescue facility for exotic animals emerging from the illegal wildlife trade, among other sources.
The Netherlands as a role model
The main purpose of the visit of Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Van Dam was to draw attention to the need to provide better guidance to Parties to CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species), especially with regards to confiscated wildlife.
The visit to AAP was a unique opportunity for the two high officials to experience first-hand how a top-notch rescue facility operates and how close cooperation with the Dutch government leads to a streamlined process and high standards of animal care. CEO David van Gennep from AAP: “In our 45 years of experience as a destination for confiscated wildlife we have seen the benefits of a properly-organized system, which not only benefits the animals but also enables better enforcement.”
In The Netherlands, the government designates rescue facilities for confiscated animals based on a public tender process which looks at quality and efficiency criteria. The contracts include financial provisions to cover the costs of the keeping and rehabilitation of the animals.
John Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES: “Enhanced enforcement efforts to combat illegal wildlife trade is seeing an increasing number of seizures, including of live animals. The rescue capacity to receive these animals is in turn put under strain. AAP provides a good example of a rescue centre supporting this enhanced enforcement effort. For example, enforcers in Portugal and Spain could confiscate primates as part of the recent coordinated anti-wildlife trafficking effort known as Operation Thunderbird, led by INTERPOL, knowing there was a secure location to hold them. It is instructive to see how the system is organized in The Netherlands and useful lessons can be learned that may assist other countries that are Parties to CITES.”
There are significant differences in how countries all around the world deal with confiscated wildlife, and insufficient attention is paid to animal welfare provisions as laid down in CITES. “We see a lot of red tape and inefficiencies which eventually delay or otherwise hinder the enforcement process and, more importantly, cause considerable animal suffering,” van Gennep continues. In some cases animals which are part of a legal (criminal) process are not allowed to be transferred from one country to another, and thus being forced to remain in quarantine for a longer period than desirable, unnecessarily taking up space which could be used for other animals awaiting to be confiscated.
The example of tiger Messalina is telling. She was confiscated from an Italian circus as was meant to be rescued at AAP’s facility for big cats in Spain, but the paperwork for the transport took months to complete and she sadly died in her temporary rescue location in Italy.
Closer to the Dutch borders, in Belgium, improvements could be made as well, says Van Gennep: “Our southern neighbors require that all confiscated animals firstly go to a temporary rescue facility in Belgium before they are allowed to be transferred to AAP. This means in practice two stressful transports and two different stays in quarantine which could easily be avoided if standardized rules were adopted by all countries, especially on a regional level such as within the EU.”
Also poignant is the story of Bongo and Klaus, now in their quarantine period in AAP’s facility in The Netherlands. Van Gennep: “After confiscation these chimpanzees were brought to an ‘in between location’ where they where supposed to stay for a short period of time. This was a zoo in Tenerife. A zoo without appropriate chimpanzee sanctuary. They arrived in The Netherlands 20 years later … ”
Van Gennep: “We see a big need for a clear, single guideline which all countries can follow, to avoid the current randomness and different standards which lead to inefficient use of the already scarce rescue capacity or to animals being sent to inadequate facilities. We believe the Dutch government can and should lead this process within CITES.”
Moreover, governments should provide the necessary financial resources for the rescue centres to be able to care for the confiscated specimens, as recommended in the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking. Van Gennep: “France, Italy, Germany and Belgium have never paid one cent for the care of animals seized in their country and that we accommodate. The Netherlands, and increasingly Spain, do take that responsibility, also financially. Governments will only be able to enforce their own laws against wildlife trafficking when they acknowledge the role of rescue centres therein, and actively support it.
Notes to the editor:
For additional information, photos and interview requests, please contact Shanti Haas, Press Officer AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection, at +31 (0)36 523 87 87, +31 (0)6 17752325 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attached is a photo of the visit at AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection. In the photo: Dutch Secretary of State for Economic Affairs Martijn van Dam, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon, CEO AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection and – in the background – chimpanzee Koko.
This and other press photos can be downloaded in high resoluction via this webpage: https://www.aap.nl/en/news/press-release. The photos may be used free of copyrights for related publications when mentioning “source: Martijn Beekman/ AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection.”