Various government agencies found dead and living protected animals and plants, and products derived from them (such as skulls, medicines, meat) in suitcases of passengers, in cargo, in postal packages and at shows. In all cases it concerned animals and plants which are protected by the CITES treaty. Between September 1st and November 5th, 2017 the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality, the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority [Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit, NVWA], the Netherlands Enterprise Agency [Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland, RVO], Customs, the Public Prosecution Service and the Dutch National Police joined forces in fighting illegal trade in protected plants and animals. The action primarily focused on inspections and education. The activities took place in the port of Rotterdam, at Schiphol Airport, in the Caribbean Netherlands, at the homes of private individuals, in shops and at shows.
The illegal transport of plants and animals is addressed internationally. Over 180 countries have concluded agreements on trading, transporting, collecting or keeping protected plants and animals. These agreements have been laid down in the CITES treaty. CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora and its objective is to prevent that a species becomes extinct or declines strongly in abundance. For this reason the European Union has launched the Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking 2016-2010, to which the Netherlands has also committed itself. The concerted action (Operation Pangolin) is additional to the regular actions which will continue throughout the year. Targeted actions are also planned for the coming years.
Feet of an elephant
The inspections resulted in a total of 59 cases, where products have been confiscated. Several postal packages containing scales of the critically endangered African Pangolin were detected, which were on their way from Africa via the Netherlands to Asia (a total 77 kilos). At Schiphol Airport 14,000 dead seahorses were found in the suitcase of a passenger on his way to China. This passenger has been sentenced to six months in prison, with a suspended sentence of three months and a two-year probationary period.
The authorities have also confiscated various orchids, several products of protected timber species and 40 kilos of snakewood powder. Inspectors also found medicines containing ingredients of bears, a polar bear skin, a number of living birds and 120 arapaima fish. Furthermore, they detected taxidermied animals, which included owls and a cobra. The inspectors also discovered skulls of monkeys and crocodiles, seven animal skins or parts thereof, of a leopard among others, ten shipments of life corals, a shell of a green sea turtle, three feet of an African elephant and six butterflies. All items were imported and transited illegally and have been confiscated.
Customs on Bonaire confiscated 267 kilos of conch meat during the action period. The meat was on its way from Venezuela to Bonaire. In addition, several pieces of coral and shells were confiscated from the luggage of tourists on the airport.
At a bird show in the city of Zwolle, the Netherlands, various bird sellers had birds whose paper work was not in order or whose leg bands were incorrect. The birds, including a vinaceous-breasted amazon and a number of hoopoes, have been confiscated. The two suspects paid a fine of EUR 5000.00
All living animals which have been confiscated will be housed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency.
In order to establish whether CITES is known among the citizens of the Netherlands, a representative poll was conducted. The majority of the respondents (94%) indicate that they know that it is not permitted to trade, transport, collect or keep internationally protected plants and animals. About 63% knows what the rules are and 1% mentions CITES spontaneously. 30% of the people aged 70 and over knows the CITES treaty by name and among 15 to 25 years olds this is 16%.