WWF-Canada Blog:

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.

A narwhal (Monodon monoceros) surfacing for breath in the Arctic, Canada. © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

A narwhal (Monodon monoceros) surfacing for breath in the Arctic, Canada.
© Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock / WWF-Canada

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 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.
    • On September 26, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary announced at a meeting of the UN General Assembly that the UK would host a high level conference on illegal wildlife trade in February of 2014. The British government is also developing a national action plan on illegal wildlife trade.
The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge host the End Wildlife Crime conference ©  Clarence House, 2013

The Prince of Wales and The Duke of Cambridge host the End Wildlife Crime conference
© Clarence House, 2013

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.

Anti Poaching patrol, Thailand © WWF-Canon / James Morgan

Anti Poaching patrol, Thailand © WWF-Canon / James Morgan

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.

  • Kelly

    What is the most mind boggling to me is that this penalty doesn’t even seem that harsh…