By Tristin Hopper
Vast, wildlife-rich and staffed by only 13 in-the-field conservation officers, the Yukon is a perfect target for organized wildlife smuggling, says Michael O’Sullivan, director of the Humane Society of Canada.
Each day, float planes could be clandestinely crossing the Canadian border, landing in remote areas and whisking out anything from sheep to falcons to bear parts without anybody knowing.
“These things could definitely be going on,” said Tony Grabowski, manager of enforcement and compliance with the Yukon conservation officer services.
The international market for smuggled wildlife is booming, with worldwide sales running anywhere from US$10 billion to $20 billion annually, making it the biggest moneymaker for organized crime after drugs, according to Interpol, the France-based international law enforcement network.
Smugglers have been apprehended with endangered bird eggs shoved into bras, hollowed-out teddy bears stuffed with endangered reptiles and hummingbirds jammed into cigarette packages.
In 2002, a man was arrested at Los Angeles’ LAX airport after two large birds of paradise came flying out of his luggage at security. Two pygmy monkeys were found stuffed in his pants.
Several species of Yukon wildlife are at risk of falling into smugglers’ cross hairs.
The territory’s gyrfalcons have long been prized by Middle Eastern falconers, fetching up to $100,000 apiece in the United Arab Emirates, report UN officials.
Already, sheep poachers have been known to cross the Alaska border by float plane into Kluane National Park. More....