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The Mountain-Prairie Region

NEWS RELEASE

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
134 Union Boulevard
Lakewood, Colorado 80228

Date: May 27, 1999
Karen Miranda Gleason 303-236-7917, x431
Sharon Rose 303-236-7917, x415

Wildlife Property Auction will Benefit Wildlife Conservation Education
and Distribution of Eagle Feathers to Native Americans

The National Wildlife Property Repository, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will auction over $1 million worth of reptile-skin clothing and other wildlife items on Friday, June 4, 1999, at the Holiday Inn at I-70 and Chambers Road in Denver.

Proceeds from the auction will support property storage and maintenance, making funds available for the Repository’s wildlife conservation education program, as well as the National Eagle Repository, which distributes feathers to Native Americans for religious uses. Proceeds will also help pay for care of live animals acquired by the Service through enforcement of the Nation’s wildlife protection laws and provide additional money for the Service’s Reward Fund, an incentive for citizens to report information about wildlife crimes.

These products, all legal to sell, were turned over to the government primarily because their owners failed to comply with wildlife importation regulations. The sale will be the first wildlife products auction of its size to be held in the United States.

Goods auctioned will not include any parts or products derived from threatened and endangered species, including crocodilian species; migratory birds, including eagles; marine mammals; or species listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) -- a listing that bans them from international commercial trade. No hunting trophies will be sold.

The auction, which targets commercial buyers, will offer over 100,000 items grouped into 652 lots of varying size and content; no items will be sold individually. Merchandise is primarily snake and lizard skin boots, shoes, vests, jackets, purses, belts, and wallets; seashell products, including home decor items and coral jewelry, will also be sold.

The National Wildlife Property Repository, located in Denver, has currently stockpiled over half a million wildlife products, most of them forfeited or abandoned to the government at 14 US. ports of entry where Service wildlife inspectors monitor wildlife trade. This 93-member force examines commercial wildlife shipments to make sure they comply with U.S. and international laws, regulations, and treaties.

Inspectors stop illegal shipments, including those that come into the country without the proper permits. Many of the items that will be auctioned in June, for example, are made from species listed on Appendix II of the CITES treaty. These products may only enter commercial trade if they are accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin.

Service inspectors typically process more than 85,000 shipments of wildlife and wildlife products each year. Importers and exporters must declare all commercial shipments to the Service and make them available for inspection.

"Our inspectors look at all of the wildlife trade to make sure importers comply with the law. Their work is essential to our efforts to enforce wildlife protection laws, intercept unlawful traffic, and fulfill the Nation’s commitment to global wildlife conservation," said Ralph Morgenweck, director for the Service's Mountain-Prairie region.

Many of the endangered or threatened wildlife items that end up at the Repository as the result of the work of Service law enforcement officers will eventually be donated or loaned to museums, universities, schools, and other institutions for use in teaching the public about wildlife conservation and about the devastating effects of illegal trade and other wildlife crimes. Items being auctioned are unsuitable for the education program.

Potential buyers may view these items the day before the auction at the sale location. Buyers must be present during the auction to bid. All items must be paid for on-site with cash, cashier’s check, or certified funds. For more information about the auction, contact Manheim Auctions, Inc., 1-800-964-4269 or visit their website at www.govservices.com.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprising more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps State, Tribal, and foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state wildlife agencies.

To learn more, please visit the U.S. Fish and Wildilfe Service on the internet at www.fws.gov

FACTS FROM THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE
WILDLIFE INSPECTION PROGRAM

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife inspection program is the nation’s front-line defense against illegal international trade in wildlife and wildlife products--a trade that threatens species worldwide.

Wildlife inspectors make sure that wildlife shipments entering the United States meet the requirements of U.S. laws, such as the Endangered Species Act, as well as the laws of foreign countries that have established special protections for their native animals.

The wildlife inspection program is the major mechanism for U.S. enforcement of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)--a global agreement through which some 150 countries regulate commercial traffic in hundreds of protected animals and plants.

A force of 93 uniformed inspectors are stationed at the Nation’s major international airports, ports, and border crossings. These full-time, trained professionals monitor an annual trade worth more than $1 billion.

The United States is among the world’s largest consumers of wildlife and wildlife products. Service wildlife inspectors processed more than 85,000 commercial wildlife shipments in 1997. That trade has virtually doubled over the last 20 years.

Inspectors work closely with their counterparts from the U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Immigration and Naturalization Service, and Public Health Service to maintain import/export controls and interdict smuggled wildlife and wildlife products.

How the Inspection Program Works

The wildlife inspection program began in the early 1970s when the Service designated certain ports of entry for importing and exporting wildlife and wildlife products. Designated ports provide a "funneling mechanism" that consolidates wildlife shipments at a few specific locations where they can be more effectively monitored.

Today there are 13 designated ports, including Baltimore. Locations staffed by Service wildlife inspectors also include 17 border, special, and other ports.

All commercial wildlife importers and exporters must obtain an annual license from the Fish and Wildlife Service ($50). Companies must use designated ports (or apply for an exception), obtain necessary permits, file a declaration form describing the contents of the shipment, pay an inspection fee of $55, and make their shipping documents and shipments accessible to wildlife inspectors. (User fees help cover some of the cost of the inspection program.)

Wildlife inspectors review documents on every shipment and conduct physical inspections when appropriate. Inspectors make sure that the required licenses and permits have been obtained and that the contents of shipments match the items listed on the import/export declaration forms. Shipments of live animals receive special attention because the Service also enforces regulations governing the humane treatment of animals in transit. If the paperwork or cargo is not in ordered he shipment is detained or seized.

Wildlife inspectors also work the passenger terminals at airports and conduct inspections at centralized mail facilities that handle international traffic. Many smuggling operations use human couriers, and tourists all too often come home with illegal wildlife products as souvenirs they purchased abroad. Moving animals via mail is a common smuggler’s ploy.

Illegal wildlife and wildlife items are often abandoned or forfeited to the government; many cases close at this point. More serious violations trigger financial penalties.

Some seizures provide the starting point for full-scale criminal investigations in which the legal consequences can include prison sentences and substantial fines. Such cases typically involve smugglers attempting to profit at the expense of wildlife.


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