Canadian man convicted of trafficking in narwhal tusks
Yesterday, in New Brunswick provincial court, Mr. Greg Logan, a retired RCMP officer, was convicted under Canada’s Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) of smuggling some 250 narwhal tusks from Canada to the United States. Mr. Logan was sentenced to pay a fine of $385,000 and to serve an eight-month conditional sentence including house arrest. In addition, Mr. Logan lost the truck and trailer that he used to transport the tusks across the border and he is prohibited from possessing or purchasing marine mammal products for a period of 10 years.
This case is linked to the arrest of two Americans last December for smuggling narwhal tusks into the United States. According to the US indictment, the Americans and the Canadians conspired from December 2000 to February 2010 to smuggle the tusks into the United States and to hide the proceeds of their sale. The indictment notes that the Canadians customized a vehicle and a utility trailer to conceal the tusks. Once in Maine, the tusks were shipped to buyers elsewhere in the country.
Mr. Logan’s sentence is the most severe penalty in Canadian history for wildlife trafficking. That alone makes this case important. But it also comes just as illegal wildlife trade is receiving worldwide media attention and governments are finally starting to recognize the threat that wildlife trafficking poses to biodiversity, economies, national security and livelihoods. Here are a few recent examples from even just the past three months:
- On July 2, U.S. President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order to establish a Presidential Taskforce on Wildlife Trafficking, to be co-chaired by the US Secretary of State, US Secretary of the Interior, and the US Attorney General. An Advisory Council to the Taskforce was announced on September 9 and included (amongst others) the President and CEO of WWF-US, and the Director of TRAFFIC North America.
- On September 12, Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, announced the creation of a partnership called United for Wildlife with seven influential conservation organisations (including WWF-UK),The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to fight illegal wildlife trade.
- On September 26, the impacts of poaching and wildlife trafficking were discussed at the United Nations during a high level meeting by heads of state and ministers who called for a coordinated international crackdown on wildlife crime. They noted that poaching and illegal wildlife trade is not just a threat to endangered species; it is a transnational crime that finances organised crime and uncontrolled militarization. The threat to peace and security was underlined by reports that Al-Shabaab, the group that perpetrated the horrifying assault on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, Kenya were allegedly partially funded by elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade.
Much of the international concern about illegal wildlife trade has been focussed on the plight of African elephants and rhinos and the Asian demand for ivory and rhino horns. Hopefully the conviction of Mr. Logan will highlight that illegal wildlife trade isn’t a concern limited only to in Africa and Asia. Wildlife trafficking is a global problem that impacts each and every country, including Canada.
The importance of wildlife trade to Canada’s heritage can’t be understated. Canada was literally built on the fur trade. Forestry, fisheries and trapping—all aspects of wildlife trade—are still vitally important to the livelihoods for many Canadians. Our aim is not to end wildlife trade but to uphold the laws that make that trade sustainable for species and fair for the communities who depend on it.
Therefore, my question is, what will Canada do now? What is the lesson of the Logan conviction? Will we finally see illegal wildlife trade recognized as a national priority? Will we see Canada institute measures similar to the US taskforce or the UK national action plan? Or will illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade continue to be viewed as someone else’s problem?
You may easily guess what I am hoping for. My fingers are crossed…
Click here to learn more about WWF’s global campaign on illegal wildlife trade and what you can do to take action.