Archives For CITES

DOC take the responsibility of protecting other countries’ taonga as seriously as protecting our own. You might have seen a bit of controversy in the news this week over DOC requesting an antique piano have its ivory key tops removed.

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World Wildlife Day is celebrated on 3 March. It’s a global celebration of wildlife and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

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After a long flight home a pair of jewelled geckos are settling back in to life in New Zealand after they were illegally smuggled to Germany.

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From kōkako researcher to Science Advisor at DOC, come behind the scenes and learn about Rod Hay including his claim to fame on the $50 note.

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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.

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Stacey Perkins, Service/CITES Programme Manager, Wellington.

Stacey Perkins watching the sunset in the Wairarapa.

Te Kopi (Wairarapa) sunset on New Years Eve 2011

At work

Some things I do in my job include… co-ordinate/manage the area’s business plan, health & safety, fleet/uniform, recruitment/payroll, general administration/finance and Wellington/Lower North Island CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) operational functions. I’m also an occasional island minder and standby officer.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… providing our people with the equipment, resources and tools they need to effectively achieve conservation outcomes. The Human Resource work helps DOC employ people with the skills to carry the organisation into the future. The CITES work contributes to the protection of endangered species of animals and plants nationally and internationally along with 177 other countries that are party to the ‘Convention’.

The funniest/strangest/loveliest/scariest/awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… there have been many memorable moments in my 18 years with DOC so narrowing this to one is difficult…but I will go with the Irish single malt whiskey treasure hunt on Matiu/Somes Island (Wellington Harbour) to see in the New Year (2011) with a group of about 20 colleagues and friends. This evening had it all: good times, good company, amazing weather, interesting wildlife and a beautiful (DOC) location. It was great fun!

Stacey standing on a bridge on Matiu Somes Island.

The day after the whiskey trail on Matiu/Somes Island

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… this is also difficult to narrow down, as there are so many wonderful people at DOC (past and present), but I will have to go with my old mate, Keith Dyett. Keith epitomises having a positive outlook on life. We have had many work and social gatherings together over the years. He is always willing to listen and share stories and experiences from life. Keith is one of the most philosophical and wise people I have had the pleasure to meet so far.

I would also like to give special mention to Colin Giddy. I have worked with Colin since 2010 when Kapiti Wellington Area was formed and we have become good friends. Colin has continued to have a really positive attitude even through recent difficult times of change at DOC. Thanks Colin for continuing to fight the good fight! There are many other great and inspiring people I have meet at DOC but cannot mention them all in the scope of this ‘profile’ but hopefully they know who they are?

Stacey on a dogsled on the Yukon River.

Dogsledding on the frozen Yukon River

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… am very keen and interested in dog sledding and have been to the Yukon twice (in 2009 and 2012) to participate in activities. I would like to live in the Yukon for one to two years to help train and compete in the Yukon Quest, a 1,000 mile dog sled race from Whitehorse in the Yukon to Fairbanks in Alaska during the Arctic winter. I have also written poetry since 1985 and have a collection of approximately 30 poems.

The song that always cheers me up is… having a collection of 1,000+ CDs, 200+ cassette tapes and a few LP records (that are slowly but surely growing in number), it is very difficult for me to pick one song. But the one that resonates the most for me and has regularly gotten air play at special occasions over the years is ‘Lightning crashes’ by Live! (YouTube it).

Other long time favourite songs of mine include ‘The River’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Nightswimming’ by REM, ‘God of Wine’ by Third Eye Blind, ‘Mrs Potters Lullaby’ by Counting Crows, ‘Patience’ by Guns ’n’ Roses, ‘North’ by Digawolf, ‘Washed away’ by Tom Cochrane and ‘Iris’ by Goo Goo Dolls to name a few.

My stomping ground is… being a Hutt Valley (Petone) boy at heart I would have to say most of the lower valley including, Percy’s Reserve, Rimutaka Forest Park, Day’s Bay and Matiu/Somes Island. Also, Petone Memorial Park for soccer and Lyall Bay and Titahi Bay for surfing. Beyond the fair shores of Aotearoa I would have to say Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia (for relaxing) and Whitehorse in the Yukon, Canada (for outdoor pursuits, nature and adventure). I like spending a large portion of my leisure time near the sea and now reside close to Plimmerton Beach, Wellington.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be… Nostradamus. When I was 10 years old I did some research on and a speech about Nostradamus. I wasn’t great at doing research and I didn’t like speaking in front of groups of people but when my mother suggested I do a speech about Nostradamus I found it fascinating, and doing the speech was surprisingly easy due to my interest in the subject. I think he was an amazing person—several centuries ahead of his time, very intellectual and holistic. He gave great insights to the future of humanity and the world with some only being realised now. Being able to predict the future would be an interesting ability to have… although I am not sure I would like what I would see?

Stacey outside the Yukon Quest building.

Dreaming of being in the Yukon Quest

My greatest sporting moment/s was when… not that I am a great sportsman but I do have some sporting highlights as a spectator, player, participant and coach. As a spectator: in 1990 I was at a Cricket World Cup – One Day International (ODI) between India and West Indies at the Basin Reserve and caught a six hit by the great Viv Richards.

As a player: in 1987 I got to play my one and only game in the Petone men’s soccer first team against Stop Out at Hutt Park Raceway and represented Petone at the National under 19 tournament.

As a participant: in 1985 I completed my first triathlon in Wellington, with a 1500 metre swim in Oriental Bay in cold/windy conditions where at least six people were pulled from the swim with early stages of hypothermia. I was in the last 50 competitors (out of about 400) out of the sea then made up 150 places on the 40km bike ride, and another 50 places on the 10km run.

As a coach: I was awarded the Junior Soccer Coach of the year in 1999 at Petone in my first and only stint as a junior coach with the tenth grade, with my team winning their competition.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote (or three) is…
#1 Travelling:  (from ‘Northern Exposure’ temporary DJ at KBHR, Bernard Stevens) “Thoughts turn to homecoming. Journey’s end. Because in a sense, it’s the coming back, the return, which gives meaning to the going forth. We really don’t know where we’ve been until we’ve come back to where we were. Only, where we were may not be as it was because of who we’ve become. Which is, after all, why we left.”

#2 Dreams – (from ‘Northern Exposure’ DJ at KBHR, Chris Stevens) “Be open to your dreams, people. Embrace that distant shore. Because our mortal journey is over all too soon.”

#3 Life – (Stacey Perkins) “Make the most of today, as tomorrow never comes.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… before you respond by email to something you are unhappy about, do a draft and save it. Speak to someone you can confide in for advice, sleep on it, re-read and edit it the next day then consider carefully if you should send or delete it! This advice has saved my blushes in the past…thanks Rob!

In work and life I am motivated by… people who contribute to the world in a positive way and people who impart knowledge to those worthy of it, in a meaningful way.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… before throwing things in the rubbish or washing things down the drain ask yourself ‘Would I like that to be going into my food or water and can I re-use this some way?’ By asking this and acting on it you will improve the health of the ecosystem we all have to live in. Also, through my cultural heritage as part Maori from Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairarapa and Ngai Tahu Iwi, I have the belief that our natural resources are a taonga and we are the guardians, not the owners, of these so we all have a responsibility to care for and conserve them!

Stacey with friends at Cape Reinga.

Early surfie days at Cape Reinga (Northland) with two mates

Question of the week…

What story does your family/whanau always tell about you? A story or event that my family re-visit and often talk about is from a time when I was 9 or 10 years old and we were on a family holiday at Flat Point, Carterton, Wairarapa. I was out diving for kina and paua with my step-father, Frank.

While he was under the sea I suddenly felt a punch or thump to my chest then a whack to my abdomen, right thigh and right knee. Then I grabbed a large tail and was dragged about 10 metres out to sea before I let go. When I looked down at my chest there was blood throbbing from a wound to my chest near the heart. When my step-father re-surfaced all he could see was a lot of blood around me. He got me to the shore where my sister, Tara, came to help me but I collapsed as my right knee ligament had been severed. My sister ran along the beach to get more help and found a lady (who to this day I still don’t know who she was…maybe my guardian angel?), who bandaged me up to reduce the bleeding from the four wounds. The worst puncture/stab wound pierced the outer wall of tissue to my heart and I lost a lot of blood.

I was rushed to hospital in Carterton in the back of a Bedford van then taken to Wellington hospital by ambulance. I spent three days in the Intensive Care Unit but survived to tell this story. After thinking long and hard about what happened we concluded that I had startled then been attacked by a large sting-ray and was stabbed/sliced by its barb in four places. We still talk about and reflect on this incident occasionally and still are in awe of how unbelievable it was. I was lucky, unlike Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, who died from a similar attack and injuries from a sting-ray’s barb! This experience taught me to respect nature and its environment!

Wendy Jackson provides policy, strategy, and implementation advice for DOC on a number of international conventions relating to wildlife. She attended the recent conference in Thailand on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species and reports back.

What do New Zealand green geckos, hammerhead sharks, and Madagascar ebony have in common? Aside from being important to ecosystem functioning and holding cultural value, these species were also recently afforded stronger protection in international law through their listing on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

A green gecko, hammerhead shark and Madagascar ebony.

Green geckos, hammerhead sharks and Madagascar ebony were considered at the recent CITES conference

The increased protection for New Zealand green geckos (Naultinus spp.) is particularly significant for New Zealand. Over the past few years, these species have been subject to high levels of poaching and smuggling, which have contributed to population declines.

North Cape green gecko.

North Cape green gecko

The proposal for additional protection was submitted to the other 177 CITES member countries last year, and was adopted by consensus last week at a CITES meeting held in Bangkok, Thailand.

These additional protections increase the ability of authorities (in New Zealand and overseas) to conduct enquiries, investigate illegal activities and makes seizures. It will also mean harsher penalties under international law for people found to be illegally trading in geckos. This is a fantastic outcome for New Zealand and especially for our geckos!

Delegates at the recent Conference of the Parties to CITES.

The 16th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES

More information about the greater protection afforded to the New Zealand Green Gecko can be found on the DOC website.

A full summary of the CITES conference is also available.