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UNEP: Succulent Somali Plants New Targets of Illegal African Wildlife Trade

A boom in poached “succulent” plants is among the latest threats facing Africa’s rare and endangered wildlife, a meeting in the Kenyan capital has learnt.

Experts with the Lusaka Agreement meet in Nairobi to Review Progress and Pin Point New Threats

Nairobi, 22 July 2003 – A boom in poached “succulent” plants is among the latest threats facing Africa’s rare and endangered wildlife, a meeting in the Kenyan capital has learnt.

Delegates to a two-day meeting of the Lusaka Agreement, known as the “African Interpol for Wildlife”, claim the protected plants are being illegally smuggled from Somalia into Kenya. From here it is believed they are being exported to Europe and North America as part of the illegal horticultural garden trade.

The meeting, attended by wildlife enforcement experts, government officials, wildlife groups and members of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), also reviewed progress on a crack down on other illegal wildlife trade including ivory, animal trophies and skins.

A report by the Lusaka Task Force, established to support the anti-poaching agreement by training wardens, gathering intelligence on criminals, exchanging information between African countries and organizations including Interpol and the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), describes how over the past 12 months 25 python skins were seized in Nairobi after being smuggled out of Uganda.

Other illegal wildlife and wildlife parts confiscated include ivory, weighing 45 kgs which was seized in the Bungoma region of Kenya. Two people are in custody.

The Task Force, in conjunction with the Kenya National Bureau, also arrested an individual in Mombasa allegedly smuggling rare and endangered reptiles and amphibians in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and southern Sudan.

The report, delivered to this week’s 6th Governing Council of the Lusaka Agreement on Cooperative Enforcement Operations Directed at the Illegal Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora, also highlights work in Congo Brazzaville. Intelligence gathering has pin pointed a number of illegal ivory trafficking routes in the country which are to be further investigated.

Henri Djombo, the Congo Brazzaville Environment Minister, said: “ There is big trafficking of the wildlife and biodiversity of the Congo Basin in terms of plant materials, including timber and medicinal plants, and animal trophies involving illegal traders and officials”.

He said there was a mafia-like system at work and added that those involved were using increasingly sophisticated methods to hide items to avoid detection.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, which helped broker the Lusaka Agreement, said: “We are dealing with theft of the biological resources of Africa. Currently there are six countries who are party to this agreement. I would call on more African countries to join so that this cross-border illegal trade can be more effectively countered. In addition, more funding is urgently needed from donors to improve the financing of this anti-poaching initiative. Countries, where these products are going, also need to act to close these illegal markets so that those involved in poaching cannot profit from their highly damaging, illicit, activities”.

Mr Toepfer also welcomed the announcement today by the Canadian Government to supply close to 120 radio sets for wildlife officers working in countries who are part of the Lusaka Agreement as a “positive contribution to enforcement of wildlife trade treaties” on the Continent.

Clement Mwale, the Intelligence Officer for the Lusaka Agreement, said the illegal trade in plants from southern Somalia, appeared to be a new and potentially worrying phenomenon “involving sophisticated operators”.

He said they had evidence that the plants, dryland species resembling aloes with thick fleshy leaves and juicy succulent interiors, are being sold for ornamental and medicinal purposes.

Mr Mwale said they had traced the trade to a nursery in Europe and one in North America and were trying to unravel how the exporters had secured permits from Kenya.

“It looks like a new, illegal trade, but it may have been operating for some time and we have only recently been alerted,” he said.

Notes to Editors: The Lusaka Agreement, a  regional agreement under CITES, came into force in December 1996. The Task Force became operational in 1999. The agreement has, so far, six Governments who are party to it. They are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Lesotho, Congo Brazzaville, Zambia. South Africa and Rwanda have sent observers to this week’s 6th Governing Council taking place at the Safari Park Hotel, Thika Road.

For More Information Please Contact: Eric Falt, UNEP Spokesman/Director of the Division of Communications and Public Information on Tel: +254-2-62-3292,  Mobile: 254-733-682656, E-mail:;  or  Nick Nuttall, UNEP Head of Media on +254-2-62-3084,  Mobile: +254-733-632755,   E-mail:

UNEP News Release 2003/42


Tuesday 22 Jul 2003
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