Australia’s role as Chair of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT)

The Australian Government, through the Department of the Environment, is the current chair of CAWT, taking over this role from the UK Government in May 2012.

CAWT is an important part of Australia’s fight against illegal wildlife trade, and complements other regional, national and international efforts.


International cooperation to combat illegal wildlife trade

In March 2015, Australia participated in the Kasane Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade in Kasane, Botswana. The Kasane Conference built on international commitments made at the London Conference on the Illegal Wildlife Trade (February 2014), where regional economic integration organisations and 42 countries agreed to take action to bring illegal wildlife trade to an end through the London Declaration on the Illegal Wildlife Trade

On 30th July 2015, the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution A/RES/69/314 on Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife. The resolution was drafted by the Group of Friends on Poaching and Illicit Wildlife Trafficking and co-sponsored by members of the group, including Australia and other CAWT members.

In November 2014, CAWT hosted an event entitled ‘Poaching from Parks – combating wildlife crime in protected areas’ at the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 in Sydney, Australia. The event highlighted the efforts of organisations, governments and communities worldwide in fighting poaching from protected areas and provided an important opportunity for making connections across issues and initiatives.

Interaction with INTERPOL
Australia is working towards strengthening regional enforcement partnerships to address wildlife trafficking, focusing on regional intelligence exchange, capacity-building and targeted wildlife enforcement operations. In November 2014, officials from the Department of the Environment attended the INTERPOL Wildlife Crime Working Group in Lyon, France. As an Executive member of the Working Group, Australia is working collaboratively with other countries on wildlife enforcement operations such as Operation PAWS II, which targeted criminal networks involved in wildlife crime.

Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network (AELERT)
Australia is a member of the Australasian Environmental Law Enforcement and Regulators Network. AELERT is a collaboration of environmental regulators from all levels of government across Australia and New Zealand. AELERT creates a framework for environmental regulators to collaborate in their work. Members connect through AELERT to exchange resources, knowledge and experience about environmental regulatory practice and work together to drive improvement and new approaches to the ‘regulatory craft’.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
Australia is the Oceania regional representative on the Standing Committee to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In this role, Australia has:
•    Progressed regional implementation of the listing of shark and ray species on Appendix II of CITES (which came into effect on 14 September 2014) through two regional workshops,
•    Provided practical assistance to the Solomon Islands in implementing CITES including permitting requirements, annual reporting and trade sustainability, and
•    Identified opportunities to improve implementation of CITES within the Oceania region and encouraged non-Parties to join CITES.
In July 2014, Australia represented the Oceania region at the 65th Standing Committee meeting of CITES. Regional representatives at the meeting considered and made decisions on 53 agenda items and a strong focus was given to demand as a driver of poaching and illegal trade in CITES listed species.  
Australia will represent the Oceania region at the 66th Standing Committee meeting of CITES in January 2016.

Australia’s regulation of international trade in wildlife
The Australian Government regulates the international movement of native wildlife and species listed under CITES through Australia’s national environment law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

More at:

Under Australia’s EPBC Act, it is generally an offence to trade internationally in CITES listed specimens and native wildlife unless CITES documentation has been issued.

Illegal wildlife trade in Australia
Australia is strongly committed to investigating and prosecuting illegal wildlife trade.  Under Australia’s national environment law, penalties of up to 10 years jail and/or a fine of up to AUD$180 000 for individuals, or up to AUD$900 000 for corporations may be imposed for the illegal import or export of regulated wildlife and wildlife products.

During 2014-15, Australian enforcement authorities issued 858 seizure and caution notices for the import and/or possession of suspected CITES specimens without appropriate authorisation.

Seizure of 110 kilograms of ivory
On 5 April 2015, 110 kilograms of ivory was seized as it was transhipped through Perth, Australia. Enforcement authorities detected the ivory while examining an air cargo shipment en route from Malawi to Malaysia. Australia implements stricter domestic measures that treat all elephant species as though they are listed on Appendix I of CITES. No elephant products may be imported to or exported from Australia unless they are from animals deceased prior to their listing on CITES. The seized ivory has been referred to the Department of the Environment and investigations are underway.

Attempted illegal export of live reptiles, amphibians, and insects
On 6 February 2015, four foreign nationals—two from Russia and two from the Czech Republic—were stopped by Australian enforcement authorities at Perth International Airport. Their apprehension followed the discovery of packages that the men had attempted to post from Australia to Europe. The packages contained hollowed-out books and cigarette packets concealing more than 150 Australian native reptiles, amphibians and insects (both live and dead). The men were found to have a number of animals in their luggage as they attempted to leave the country. The men were charged on 43 counts and sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Illegal importation of exotic fish
Exotic CITES listed fish found in luggage © Australian Border Force In February 2015, a major Australian exotic fish smuggling network was disrupted when Australian enforcement authorities found 20 plastic bags concealed in a man’s luggage after he arrived in Adelaide, Australia from Singapore. Inside each bag, a number of live and dead CITES-listed fish species were found. Further investigation led to search warrants being issued for two addresses in Adelaide where more CITES-listed fish were discovered.

Smuggling of protected bird eggs
On 20 May 2014, Australian enforcement authorities officers at Sydney Airport seized 16 eggs found concealed in a male traveller’s undergarments. The eggs were later identified to be from a Monk or Quaker parakeet, both CITES listed species. The man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 72 days imprisonment.

Seizure of illegal ivory products
In February 2014, illegal ivory products, including carved ornaments and jewellery, with an estimated value of up to AUD$80 000 were seized. This followed several months of investigation based on intelligence provided by the International Fund for Animal Welfare Oceania through tracking online trade in wildlife products.

Seizure of a record number of illegal wildlife items
Record illegal wildlife seizure © Department of the Environment In 2014, the largest seizure of illegal wildlife products in Australia’s history was made. Seventy eight illegal wildlife products were found in an Australian resident’s possession including 11 orang-utan skulls, 25 skulls of other monkey species, lynx, bears, a tiger, teeth and skins from orang-utans, lynx, and otters, and a feather headdress made from a bird of paradise. The owner of the seized items was convicted on 24 charges of possessing illegal wildlife products and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.