In April 2000, the Conference of the Parties to CITES adopted a Strategic Vision through 2005 and set as one of its objectives “to stimulate and participate in bilateral, regional and global efforts to combat illegal trade in wild fauna and flora”. In addition, it called on the Parties and the Secretariat to “formally recognize and award exemplary enforcement actions.”
Consequently, the Secretariat decided to create Certificates of Commendation, to be awarded at the discretion of the Secretary-General, and announced their introduction with Notification to the Parties No. 2002/014 of 6 March 2002.
The award of certificates
In Resolution Conf. 11.3 (Rev. CoP15) (Compliance and enforcement), the Conference of the Parties recommends that "the Parties provide to the Secretariat detailed information on significant cases of illegal trade" and that "the Parties inform the Secretariat, when possible, about convicted illegal traders and persistent offenders.”
When the Secretariat receives such information, or when it learns independently of outstanding examples of enforcement-related work, it reviews the case to determine whether it can serve as an example to the wider law enforcement community or whether it has furthered the aims of the Convention in preventing illegal trade in wildlife in an innovative manner.
Since illegal trade in wildlife constantly evolves, as does the law enforcement response, equally evolving and flexible criteria have been established in determining in what circumstances a certificate should be awarded or who may be a recipient. Given the above, the Secretary-General takes into account such circumstances as:
- Particularly significant seizures of wildlife (a simple seizure of wildlife contraband by border control officers would not, in itself, warrant the award of a certificate, regardless of the quantity or rarity of the animals or plants involved. However, if the seizure had necessitated those involved uncovering a particularly sophisticated method of concealment, or offered lessons that others might learn from, then an award may be considered);
- Conduct by law enforcement officials which has gone beyond what might reasonably be expected of those whose daily task it is to enforce the provisions of CITES, including acts of bravery;
- Complex investigations resulting in significant arrests, prosecutions, or disruption of criminal networks;
- The use of innovative investigative techniques, such as controlled delivery operations or anti-money laundering work;
- The bringing to justice of those responsible for serious incidents of wildlife crime, exemplary law enforcement penalization (e.g. innovative or significant sentences), marked reductions in illegal trade, or actions leading to improvements in the conservation status of species;
- Exemplary inter-agency coordination and collaboration at the local, regional or international level;
- Long-term commitment on the part of individuals to wildlife law enforcement, of an outstanding nature that is especially worthy of recognition; and
- Activities undertaken by individuals or organizations that significantly promote or contribute to the general enforcement of the Convention.
The Secretariat is aware of other award schemes for wildlife law enforcement officials and the Certificates of Commendation are deliberately intended to stand alone and to be completely at the discretion of the Secretary-General. The Secretariat wishes to emphasize that it does not seek nominations for such awards but encourages Parties and other relevant organizations to continue to bring to its attention cases involving the combating or detection of illegal trade.
The certificates are usually presented personally by the Secretary-General to the recipients. However, where this is not possible, they are presented by a senior member of the Secretariat, or may be presented to representatives of the recipient’s country.
Recipients of certificates
|2017 - The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of India was awarded with the Secretary-General's Certificate of Commendation in recognition of exemplary work conducted to initiate and coordinate a national intelligence-driven law enforcement operation focused on the major Indian states affected by poaching of and illegal trade in live tortoises and turtles. The operation, code-named “Operation Save Kurma”, was conducted from 15 December 2016 to 30 January 2017, and resulted in the seizure of 15,912 live tortoises and turtles and the arrest of 55 suspects. See press release: Indian law enforcement operation seizes 16,000 tortoises and turtles and arrests 55 - gets recognized by CITES Secretary-General Certificate of Commendation|
|2017 - The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) of Singapore was awarded with the Secretary-General's Certificate of Commendation in recognition of the great perseverance it demonstrated in securing successful convictions for illegal timber trade following the seizure of an illegal shipment of 3,235 metric tonnes (29,434 pieces) of CITES-listed rosewood (Dalbergia spp.) logs, on 14 March 2014. See Notification No. 2017/051|
|2015 - The South African Police Service, National Prosecuting Authority of South Africa and Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife were awarded Secretary-General's Certificates of Commendation for their exemplary collective activities during the undercover Operation Whisper that led to the arrest of members of crime syndicates involved in rhinoceros poaching and the illegal international trade in rhinoceros horn.|
|2014 - The National Inter-agencies CITES Enforcement Coordination Group of China, the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force were awarded Secretary-General’s Certificates of Commendation for their exemplary collaboration that led to the dismantling of an international criminal syndicate smuggling ivory from Kenya to China. See Notification to the Parties No. 2014/034.|
|2014 - Nepal received the Secretary-General’s Certificate of Commendation in recognition of its exemplary efforts to combat wildlife crime. In 2011 no rhinoceroses, tigers, or elephants were illegally killed in Nepal, and in 2012 the country lost just one rhinoceros to poaching. See Notification to the Parties No. 2014/034.|
|2013 - Awarded jointly to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) and the National Inter-agency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG) of China, in recognition of their exemplary efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade during Operation Cobra. See press release on Operation Cobra and Notification to the Parties No. 2013/014.|
|2012 - National Inter-agency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG) of China for the exemplary work undertaken under the auspices of the National Inter-agency CITES Enforcement Coordination Group (NICECG) in two national wildlife law enforcement operations across China in 2012. See the press release.|
|2012 - The Ports and Maritime Command of Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department, and to the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, the CITES Management Authority of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (China), for their exemplary work in in uncovering and intercepting an attempt at wildlife smuggling. See Notification to the Parties No. 2012/020)|
|2011 - The Blagoveshchensk Customs Office of the Federal Customs Service and the Amur Region Department of the Border Guard Service, Federal Security Service, Russian Federation, for their exemplary work in uncovering and intercepting an attempt at wildlife. See Notification to the Parties No. 2011/032)|
|2010 - The Airports of Thailand Public Company and the CITES Wildlife Checkpoint of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department of the Government of Thailand, at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok, for intercepting an attempt to smuggle a live tiger cub out of the country. This demonstrated the importance of raising awareness of illegal trade in wildlife among port security personnel. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2010/030)|
|2010 – The Customs Administration of the Czech Republic and the Czech Environmental Inspectorate, for their long-term investigation into the smuggling of rare parrots, which involved: international liaison and the uncovering of widespread forgery of CITES-related documents, false declarations of captive-breeding; and use of fake marking rings. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2010/026 and the press release)|
|2009 – The Hai Phong office of the General Department of Customs of Viet Nam, for its exemplary work in intelligence gathering and risk-assessment leading (during the course of six months) to the seizure of over 8 tonnes of elephant ivory and significant quantities of turtle shell and pangolin scales. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2009/042)|
|2006 – Mr Lu Chuan of China, writer and director of the film, ‘Kekexili: Mountain Patrol’, for bringing to the attention of the international community the plight of the Tibetan antelope and the difficulties and hazards faced by the law enforcement officials tasked with protecting this animal and combating the criminals who kill it for its wool. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2006/044)|
|2006 – The Royal Chitwan National Park Authority and Royal Nepalese Army, Nepal, for their combined efforts to combat poaching of, and illegal trade in, specimens of endangered species such as leopards, rhinoceroses and tigers, resulting in the arrest of over 30 persons, many subsequently sentenced to imprisonment. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2006/020)|
|2004 – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice, Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, for their combined efforts to combat illicit trade in caviar, resulting (in a two-year period) in over 25 prosecutions, the majority involving sentences of imprisonment. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2004/038)|
|2003 – Mr Torkjel Rygnestad of the INTERPOL General Secretariat, in recognition of his commitment to wildlife law enforcement during his period of service with INTERPOL. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2003/060)|
|2003 – The crew of Hong Kong Customs Launch No. 9 and the CITES Management Authority of Hong Kong S.A.R., China, following their intensive search of a fishing vessel, which uncovered a carefully concealed and large quantity of ivory, and the subsequent prosecution and imprisonment of the vessel’s master. (See Notification to the Parties No. 2003/021)|