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Dutch authorities confiscate shipments of caimans from Guyana

Dead caimans from Guyana at Holland’s Schiphol Airport

Guyana’s Wildlife Management Authority (WMA) on Sunday confirmed that two shipments of caimans destined for The Netherlands and Ukraine within the past two weeks were seized by Dutch authorities.

The WMA said officials in the Netherlands reported that the shipments violated IATA Live Animal Regulations. In the wake of the discovery of the live and dead caimans, the Authority said it would take steps to ensure Guyanese inspectors are trained to comply with IATA Live Animal Regulations.

Following is the full text of the WMA statement:

On November 29, 2013, a shipment of caimans departed Guyana destined for The Netherlands. Upon arrival in The Netherlands, several caimans were found dead. The shipment was routed through Canada and Turkey. The Dutch Authorities determined that the animals had not been transported in accordance with the IATA Live Animal Regulations. They noted that ventilation was not adequate for the caimans, the caimans were transported “too cold” and that the packing density outlined by the IATA Live Animal Regulations was not adhered to.

On December 12, 2013 another shipment of caimans departed Guyana, destined for Ukraine. The shipment was routed through The Netherlands where the Dutch Authorities once again determined that the caimans were transported in violation of the IATA Live Animal Regulations and seized the shipment. The Wildlife Management Authority has requested that the Dutch Authorities provide further information on the specific violations pertaining to this shipment and is awaiting a response.

The general container requirements (Live Animal Regulations, 2011, pp. 278-280) indicate that the dimensions of inner enclosures and/or outer enclosures must be related to the actual size of the specimens being transported. In general, the container must allow the animal to lie in a natural manner with enough space so that stacking does not take place. Further, the height of the container should allow air flow over the animals but must also prevent stacking.

With regard to ventilation and temperature, it is noted that reptiles are cold blooded and have lower oxygen requirements than birds and mammals. Therefore, the ventilation and the size of the ventilation openings would be dependent on the ambient temperature. Shipments that are exposed to cold climates will require fewer ventilation openings than shipments that are exposed to hot climates. The ventilation openings must be small enough to prevent the escape of the animals and meshed openings must be added to the outer container to prevent the possible blockage of inner ventilation holes by the outer container. To protect the animals from extreme temperatures, insulated or lined containers are recommended.

Container requirement 42 contains specific requirements for crocodiles (including all kinds of alligators, caimans and any other crocodilian species). For caimans with a snout vent length (SVL) less than 20cm, a packing density of 2-3 caimans is indicated with an inner enclosure of minimum size 4 liter cloth bag or rigid plastic container permitted.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that while some parameters are established for the shipment of live animals, there is ambiguity in the guidelines which can lead to subjectivity on the part of inspecting officers. The Wildlife Management Authority therefore will be seeking to undertake the following:

1.     
Training of the inspecting officers on the IATA Live Animal Regulations.


2.    
  Development of clearer guidelines by the WMA within the parameters laid out by the IATA Live Animal

      Regulations to avoid accusations of subjectivity on the part of inspecting officers.

NL Times.nl said the find of the animals was reported on Saturday by the Dutch Food and Goods Authority NVWA, which said in a statement that in November and December almost 370 animals from Guyana died en route to the Schiphol International airport.

The latest find was on Thursday: 200 caimans (a cousin to the alligator) and three snakes that arrived at Schiphol on transit to the Ukraine, had been left out in the freezing cold for 1.5 hours. The animals also had not been boxed properly and 48 caimans had died before they were discovered. The three snakes and 14 other caimans are not expected to survive either.

It was the second such find in one month. On 29 November NVWA had already found 444 caimans from Guyana. They were shipped 50 animals per box, whereas the international directive is three per box. No less than 318 arrived dead; five perished the day after they were found.

NVWA gave the surviving animals in care of a storage of the Economic Affairs Ministry. A report of animal cruelty and violation of international animal transport guidelines was filed against the airlines that had allowed the improper shipments of the animals.

A report was also filed against the shipper of the animals, for violating the flora and fauna legislations and because there was no formal CITES license for shipping the animals. CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The Guyana finds are not common. NVWA more often finds shipments of animals from neighboring former Dutch colony Suriname, which has multiple weekly flights direct to the Netherlands. The most recent find was on Tuesday December 10th of six songbirds (thick-billed seed finches or Picolets) on a man who had tried to disguise them as gift wrapped Christmas gifts. He faces a stiff fine.