A day in the life of a CITES ranger

Department of Conservation —  03/03/2014

Today is World Wildlife Day, a unique opportunity to celebrate the rich diversity of our planet’s animal and plant species and remember how their continued survival in the wild is linked to our own.

World Wildlife Day - 3 March.

World Wildlife Day also marks the anniversary of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

This agreement regulates and monitors trade in animal and plant species to ensure it does not threaten their long-term survival in the wild.

African elephant and calf.  Photo: Arno Meintjes | flickr | CC BY-NC 2.0.

CITES monitors the illegal killing of elephants and shows us that we face a critical situation with the poaching of the African elephant and smuggling of its ivory

In New Zealand CITES rangers are at the front line of the enforcement of the Convention. Today, DOC CITES Ranger, Anita Jacobs, shares with us a day in the life of a CITES ranger…

CITES ranger Anita Jacobs.

Anita Jacobs

I wake up in the morning thinking about what I might find today at the Auckland Airport. Today is one of my designated days to go to the airport to process the detained and seized items collected by Customs and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).

I am part of a team of four that checks and manages the imports and exports of approximately 35,000 species (parts or derivatives thereof) that are covered by the CITES.

Auckland International Aiport.

Auckland International Aiport

As I leave for work the thought of what I do every day fills me with wonder. Not one day is the same and inevitably something new happens that stretches and exercises my brain.

I arrive at the international passenger terminal and, as usual, there is an array of items seized during the past few days, waiting to be processed. As I work through the items, mostly traditional Chinese medicine and corals, the importance of my job and the effect that is has on conservation worldwide strikes me once again. What I and my colleagues do on a daily basis has a direct effect on the conservation of a particular species. What an awesome responsibility!

Ivory tusks at Auckland airport.

Ivory tusks

As I wade my way through the items I come across a rolled up skin. As I roll it out on the bench I realise that it is a snake skin. I can scarcely believe my eyes; it is a king cobra shed skin. It is utterly beautiful and complete. Carefully I roll it back up again and make notes that it can be released to the importer. As it is a shed skin, considered a waste product, it does not fall under the rules of the convention and can be returned.

King cobra skin.

Dealing with shed snake skin is all part of the job

I then head over to the international mail centre and collect all the items that have been held for our inspection.

I find a massive Chinese paint brush made out of some sort of animal horn.  I turn it around, look it up and down, and rack my brain trying to determine from what species this came from. As it does not meet biosecurity requirements for import I take photos to send to the museum for positive identification. As you do, I take up the brush and pretend to draw in the air; we all have a bit of a laugh and I put it away. As it turns out, this ‘brush’ was of more interest to Customs as it was literally stuffed with cocaine! And there I was playing with this thing! You just never know in this job.

Back at the office I share my experiences of the day with my colleague and together we go through all the items that I have brought back from the airport.

Going through my correspondence I see that we have received applications to export live birds to Japan, bagpipes with ivory ferrules to the United Kingdom and an import of red pandas to Auckland Zoo. What variety in one job!

Red panda in a tree.

Overseeing the import of red pandas to Auckland Zoo

The importance and responsibility as a CITES Ranger to manage the international movement of endangered species means good liaison with both domestic and international agencies. On top of that we need to liaise with and educate the public as to the importance of this Convention.

I may not work out in the field doing ecological surveys or relocating kiwis but what I do ensures that the work we do on the ground has a positive effect on species numbers and conservation internationally. That makes me feel good and I know that I am an integral part of global species protection.

As I sit in the Auckland traffic on my way home I think about what lies ahead tomorrow. Whatever it may be, I am looking forward to it!

You can find out more about CITES on the DOC website.

One response to A day in the life of a CITES ranger

  1. 
    Jacqui Dyer 03/03/2014 at 9:32 am

    Lovely story Anita. It’s always fun having a look at the exotic objects that appear in the CITES section of the office!