A judge sentenced Pascal Vieillard, CEO of A-440 Pianos Inc., to 3 years probation for illegally smuggling elephant ivory into the US, while the Georgia-based company has been fined $17,500. Vieillard had earlier pleaded guilty to importing pianos with ivory parts.
“A-440 Pianos and its CEO deliberately violated laws that govern the importation of elephant ivory. Because they chose not to follow the law, in addition to having federal convictions, the company and its CEO will be monitored closely for several years and will pay hefty fines. Our message to commercial enterprises is clear: this office will prosecute violations of laws that were designed to promote the viability of endangered species,” US attorney Sally Quillian Yates said in a press release.
In importing the ivory, Vieillard had violated the US Lacey Act, which protects specified animals and plants. In this case, elephants are deemed a protected species by the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
“This case is a prime example of the continued desire for ivory and ivory products. The response to supply and demand has fueled the unlawful activities associated with providing these products to consumers. The sentence handed down today should serve as evidence that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continues its vigilance enforcing wildlife laws,” said special agent in charge James Gale from the Southeast Region US Fish and Wildlife Service, office of Law Enforcement.
Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) are currently listed as Endangered by the IUCN Red List. Conservationists believe the global population has been cut in half in three elephant generations largely due to habitat loss and poaching for their ivory. The black market trade has also resulted in human deaths on both sides, rangers protecting elephants and poachers attempting to kill them.
African elephants (Loxodonta Africana) face similar challenges but are faring better and so are listed as Vulnerable. However, recent studies have shown that Africa has one, not two, species of elephant. The forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) may in fact be more threatened than the bush elephant.
Undercover for animals: on the frontline of wildlife crime in the US
(11/03/2010) Special Agent O’Connor is a veteran wildlife law enforcement officer, with over 20 years of service under belt. She began her career in wildlife law enforcement as a Conservation Police Officer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, where she served for eight years. She then moved to federal wildlife law enforcement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where she was first posted to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then to St. Paul, Minnesota. During that time, she investigated several major cases that led to felony convictions for violations of wildlife laws. She now serves as a training officer at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC), the interagency law enforcement training organization that serves 88 Federal agencies, in Georgia.
(01/24/2011) A Chinese national was caught attempting to smuggle 22 pounds (10 kilos) of ivory out of the Republic of Congo on Saturday, according to the AFP. Officials confiscated five elephant tusks, 80 ivory chopsticks, 3 ivory carvings, and a number of smaller ivory-made items.
(01/24/2011) Since the 1980s, Liberia has lost 19,000 elephants to illegal poaching, according to Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service speaking in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The poaching of Liberia’s elephants has cut the population by 95% leaving only 1,000 elephants remaining.