Statement by the Secretary-General of CITES on concerns expressed about confiscated orangutans

Geneva, 20 May 2010

The Secretariat has recently received a number of emails urging the return to Indonesia of 11 orangutans confiscated by the CITES Management Authority of Thailand in February 2009.

In keeping with its responsibilities to promote enforcement of the Convention and to assess and communicate relevant information, the Secretariat contacted the Thai Management Authority about these messages. The Thai Management Authority responded immediately, stating that the animals had been well cared for since their confiscation and that DNA analysis showed they were Bornean orangutans. It advised the Secretariat that the Thai and Indonesian authorities had been consulting about the possible return of the animals - as both countries had arranged for the return of a number of orangutans three years ago. The Thai Management Authority further stated that it had written officially to the CITES Management Authority of Indonesia earlier this month to find out whether it would like the animals to be returned at its expense – as provided under Article VIII of the Convention.

The Secretariat is also in contact with the Indonesian Management Authority about this matter.

As provided by the Convention, the determination of the most suitable long-term home for confiscated animals rests with the State of confiscation, following consultation with the State of export. The State of confiscation may consult with the Secretariat, whenever it considers this desirable, but the CITES Secretariat has no power to decide the final destination of confiscated animals.

The Thai Management Authority has advised that its investigation into the events leading up to the confiscation of the 11 orangutans is ongoing. The role of the Secretariat in relation to domestic law enforcement is supportive in nature and is focused on exchanging information about alleged violations, strengthening law enforcement capacity and facilitating coordinated action by interested States. In this context, the Secretariat offers and provides technical back-up to assist States in their investigation and pursuit of individuals or organizations which are suspected of having violated the Convention and relevant national law.

The emails sent to the Secretariat also raise issues of compliance with the Convention. The Secretariat supports other CITES bodies in carrying out their functions concerning compliance. It advises and assists Parties in complying with their CITES obligations and makes recommendations for achieving compliance. Compliance measures under the Convention, however, can only be taken by the Conference of the Parties or its Standing Committee.

John Scanlon
CITES Secretary-General