Former CITES authority of Guinea in prison

Questions raised about traffickers infiltrating UN international decisions

In a dirty prison cell in the West African country of Guinea, a well dressed government official has now much time to reflect on memories of representing his country in glamorous UN conventions striving to protect endangered species as elephants and apes from extinction. The man that was responsible for his country’s effort to stop wildlife trafficking is now indicted for being a top trafficker himself, playing a key role in a wildlife criminal mafia.

And, apparently, this is not an isolated case. According to the enforcement outfit, the EAGLE Network, assisting the arrest, there are many more top criminals representing countries in UN Conventions, raising questions about traffickers infiltrating the voting on decisions on international law intended to curb wildlife crime.

The fate of elephants apes and other endangered species racing to extinction is often hanging on the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) – an international treaty under which country delegates vote on international laws to control the booming trade destroying nature worldwide.

Last week the former wildlife head and the CITES authority of Guinea - Ansoumane Doumbouya – has been arrested by the Interpol NCB, with the assistance of GALF – EAGLE, following an investigation against a wildlife ring involved in large scale wildlife trafficking and corruption.

Only three days after the arrest, his brief case was finally opened in front of the prosecutor. The former director held his head as several of empty government export permits were pulled out of his bag. It seems the top public official was a mobile one-stop-shop for all the traffickers’ needs. From manatees to parrots and monkeys, illegal trade was carried out of the briefcase.

A UN CITES mission to Guinea in 2011 found that 69 chimpanzees had left the country in 2010 alone, all destined for Chinese zoos or safari parks. Investigations led by NGOs and private individuals have revealed that as many as 138 chimpanzees and 10 gorillas have been exported via travel routes established by Chinese development companies.

Different international reports, implicated Ansoumane Doumbouya in illegal exports, but he was still attending international conservation meetings and even became the country’s commander of the National Wildlife and Forestry Mobile Enforcement Brigade – Guinea’s chief enforcer for fighting trafficking.

“This is a landmark in the fight against corruption and complicity facilitating the illegal wildlife trade”, said Charlotte Houpline president of WARAs’ GALF project assisting the operation, “we are very pleased by the strong message of the Guinean Government. The vicious cycle of impunity has been broken.”

“The issue of corruption and complicity in international conventions is pertinent and has to be tackled more seriously” said Ofir Drori, founding director of the EAGLE Network, “there are many more such criminals in suit and tie, not just in Africa, and we have our plans against a few”.

Ansoumane Doumbouya is behind bars facing justice and will have to answer to prosecution being accused for offences with maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.