Milesw

Hamm Trip Customs / Cites Experience.

21 posts in this topic

After some thinking i have decided to make this post about my experience with UK customs/CITES to try and share some knowledge on the subject and to put all of the rumors to sleep!

Ok, as some of you may know on December 13th i went to the Hamm show in Germany (great show and weekend BTW) the trip home... not so much!

The show itself was AMAZING and i do recommend going to anyone who is in the hobby or interested in any reptiles/inverts/amphibians!
I went round looking at all the tables etc bought some nice plants from Bert and some dry goods from a few different stalls.
And the animals i bought from different tables were: 6 x Minyobates Steyermarki, 3 x Oophaga Sylvatica 'whitefoots', 2 x Oophaga Histrionicus 'red head',1 x Ranitomeya Imitator 'Banded', 3 x Ranitomeya Imitator 'Baja Huallaga' and 2 x Sphaerodactylus Argus.                                                

So i went home on the bus back from Dortmund>London and the driver took the euro star route and not the ferry route.
Got to french border control, all off the bus and all belongings into the passport control area and checked over and all bags etc xrayed.
I was a little worried because i wondered what they might think about the frogs in my polystyrene box, i saw them crowd around the screen and had a few puzzled faces and then laughed and waved me on!
Then onto the UK border about 20 meters down the road, this time all off and just passports, so going through passport control there, and i get stopped and asked some 'routine' questions about my short trip to Germany.
I answered them truthfully, and said i went out to meet friends i have met online and too attend an animal show in Germany called 'Terraristika Hamm'.
I was then asked if i had purchased any animals, i replied yes and said the list of what i purchased, then i was asked to provide paperwork for them.
Which to my knowledge i had everything that i needed...
So before i went i asked a few people who had brought things back in the past, and the general consensus was that you needed a breeders certificate to prove that the animals were captivity bred, and this is what all the breeders told me at the show and had no problem writing me out the paperwork
(i will attach a picture for example).069sU8D.jpg?2
The customs investigator then took the paperwork into the office to liaison with Heathrow CITES team. 10 minutes later came back to me, telling me that the train was leaving in 5 minutes and that the Heathrow team want to see the animals to correctly identify them etc...
so i was issued with a notice of seizure and a contact number for the CITES team in Heathrow.
Then because i was made to miss the last train on the Saturday night due to paperwork etc, had a 14 hour wait in the very cold terminal untill they finally arranged to have us transported to the UK!

On the Monday i was issued with a 'COTES 5' (section 5 of the control of trade in endangered species).
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which they had to amend...
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And my task was to get proof of legal importation into the EU, which i eventually did get proof for the 4 x Ranitomeya Imitators, and the 2 x Sphaerodactylus Argus are not listed on CITES so didn't need any proof!

Getting in touch with the breeders of the Oophaga histrionicus 'Red Heads' and the Oophaga Sylvatica 'Whitefoots' wasnt very easy and then getting across the point that i need proof of legal importation was even harder!
And the best i got from them was proof of purchase of their adults and proof that the frogs that were sold to me were bred in captivity.

Getting in touch with the couple that sold me the Minyobates wasn't hard at all.
lovely, kind and very helpful people! But could not prove that the frogs were imported legally into the EU.
They had the original proof that dated back to 2006 when they bought the frogs from a professor at the local university but could not get in touch with him for further
information. They did however produce me some paperwork, that they have to fill out in their country, that (the best i could translate) basically registers pets with the local council?
Unfortunately the CITES team had never heard of such a thing.

So after submitting all my research and information to them and waiting for a reply, i received this...
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And so to settle any rumors going around, EVERYTHING was seized and will never be returned to me!

I have not done this for sympathy, i have done it to educate people on a very grey and misunderstood area of our hobby!
I hope this helps people understand what is needed to bring dart frogs back from Hamm 100% legally.

I'm more than happy to answer any questions on my experience that anyone has for me!

Regards,
Miles.
 

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It made me pretty sick when you told me at the time. Now seeing it print....

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Hi Miles

Sorry to hear about this Miles. Am I correct in thinking that customs could take any type of dartfrog from you if all you have is a breeders certificate? You done very well to provide all the information to customs that you did. A lot of breeders certificates hardlies have any info on them other than the sellers name and address and the type of frog scribbled on, let alone how to contact the breeder by phone or e-mail!

 

regards

 

Gordon

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That is correct Gordon as all Dart frogs are listed under CITES 2 Annex B, so proof of legal exportation/importation would be needed for them to release them back to you.

 

it took a lot of persistence i can tell you that much!

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It doesn't matter how far down the generation they are CB either, if you are unable to prove that the frog originates from frogs that are legally imported they will confiscate them.

 

The way they explained it to me helped me understand it better, for example some one captures a pair of pandas from the wild, they then breed in captivity, it doesn't then mean that the young are legal in any way.

 

hope that helps :)

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Miles, thank you so much for posting this.  It is so important that experiences like this are shared.

 

The world is changing and as Gordon suggested, and you confirmed, under the strict interpretation of the law this 'should' be the case for all imported dartfrogs. To date the rules have simply been very loosely enforced.  

 

Breeders certificates are technically worthless unless from a company such as UE that is willing to stand by the legality of their frogs.  Otherwise it's just a receipt. A copied CITES certificate is also, in practice, worthless but may qualify as satisfactory evidence for now - until copies of the same certificates start cropping up a bit too frequently....

 

What it means of course, as you've said, is that you can even be stung for importing the offspring of age-old lines of well-established frogs that were imported into Europe pre-CITES (e.g. R. vanzolinii).  Is it fair?  That's a matter of opinion.  

 

Notwithstanding your bad experience, that I certainly wouldn't want to go through, I think it's a positive thing that these rules are now being enforced.  It's erring on the side of caution which is bad for us but, I believe, good in the big picture. People just need to be aware............  It's not just the nudge nudge wink wink frogs that can get you in trouble.

 

I think you were very unlucky to be done, but technically it was a fair cop - and it may be the way of things to come. To be honest, knowing at the back of my mind that this 'could' happen has been enough to stop me importing frogs.  I have licenses to import species (not frogs!) from the US for work and it's just not worth the risk for me.  Again, thanks for taking the time to post this.

 

Nick

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Thanks nick, its better to get it out in the open so others can see what risks there really is! And hopefully go to these shows prepared for what 'could' happen on the trip home.

 

I too see it as a positive thing now that its happened, but it has scared me! How many of us can actually prove our frogs in our collections come from legal origins? so what if the next step CITES/Customs take is to investigate each hobbyist? it is a big WHAT IF, but its a troubling thought!

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Had a similar experience (not soo harsh though) with some hard corals in the reef hobby.

 

Thank you for sharing your experience.

Ale

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Definitely some sobering thoughts here. Thanks for sharing Miles. It's scary to think that virtually any hobbyist coming back from any EU show could be at rish from a customs sesiure if they don't have the right paperwork

 

Ben

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Miles, thank you for sharing this with us this is important information, I'm going to pin this post. Do we have a list what frogs don't need Cites and which ones do in the UK?

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Miles,

Thanks for the info. I'm not sure but I think they may have the power to visit your home and impound your whole collection and return unannounced if they suspect you may have more animals. So although you've had a gutting loss maybe it could have been worse.

 

After your experience I would definely make sure I came back via the ferry rather than the tunnel. I've been over by ferry twice times once by car from Dutch frog day and once by coach from Hamm. We were just waved through by car and for the coach all livestock was left on the coach while we walked through the border control and back onto the coach. I do know someone that had frogs confiscated by customs at Heathrow. I think most the frogs ended up in London zoo but apparently some particularly desirable frogs disappeared into thin air between confiscation and an audit of the shipment.

Kev

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Miles, thank you for sharing this with us this is important information, I'm going to pin this post. Do we have a list what frogs don't need Cites and which ones do in the UK?

 

This information is on the CITES website - the Appendix I, II and II species (genera in our cases) are listed here: http://www.cites.org/eng/app/appendices.php

 

For our purposes, this includes all Mantella as well as all Adelphobates spp., Ameerega spp., Andinobates spp., Dendrobates spp., Epipedobates spp., Excidobates spp.,  Minyobates spp., Oophaga spp.,  Phyllobates spp. and Ranitomeya spp. as well as Hyloxalus azureiventris, Allobates femoralis, Allobates hodli, Allobates myersi, Allobates rufulus, Allobates zaparo and Atelopus zeteki.

 

A. zeteki, for example is Appendix I, which means that, "...they are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial (see Article III), for instance for scientific research."

 

The Dendrobatidae are Appendix II, which means that they are, "species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called "look-alike species", i.e. species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons (see Article II, paragraph 2 of the Convention). International trade in specimens of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary for these species under CITES (although a permit is needed in some countries that have taken stricter measures than CITES requires). Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. "

 

Basically, going by the book, to bring a CITES A-II listed animal back from Hamm, you would need an export permit issued by the German government - in the strictest interpretation of the rules.  This is regardless of the animal's origin - note that (as far as I know...) there is no distinction made between wild collected and captive bred animals....

 

Nick

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Miles again a note of thanks for posting and the education that is following,it is really worrying !!  I wonder if there is one single person here in the UK whom could provide the necessary info for their normal morph leucs let alone anything else. I'm sorry for you mate!!

 

Miles  (and Nick I guess)I have a few questions,reading through the papers sent to you,if you had of had a cities export number, would this have counted as proof of legal importation to the country you bought the frogs from?  If you had of been able to obtain this,then does this naturally "emcompass all CB animals bred from this stock? Am I right or wrong this might have prevented seizure?

 

 Nick's posted a "by the book strictest interpretation of the rules" above,  i've just been looking at some of the paperwork I do have out of curiosity. A cities export number was given to me for example on my WC Attachibakka,(they were actually bought here in blighty guys,but I'm curious if that a would have been enough to prevent seizure and second if this number should be passed forwards to folks whom have our F1's? Are there any ramifications of passing on an export number in this way?

 

If one is working on the premise I am going to get searched,can we know exactly what paperwork the gov wants us to be in possession of to prevent seizure,does this also work the same if one was to export?  

 

I'm slightly confused,what's new,  Ones need to establish legal export/import from the country of origin,( where the frogs are originally found in the wild) to the country of destination, which a cities export number if not the complete paper might establish, This export number would then presumably be applicable to CB offspring of said frogs listed under that specific import export. But it seems we need more than this,Nick you have implied we need a second export paper to move them in side  europe?

 

Sorry if I'm being dumb here but should I ever get to hamm or as in the past other froggers and mates, I might add, have brought back frogs for us,I'd like to be damn sure I don't get busted or worse a mate does carrying my frogs. Nick you have spelled things out pretty well,i'm just trying for a fool proof set of documents we should be asking for.Miles while talking to them did they mention exactly what you should have done beyond what is in the paperwork above,where as far as I can gather they have asked you for proof,but in the form of two cities paperwork one for export and one for import too the EU,from country of origin,so both countries have a bit of paper for the one journey taken by the frogs?  Or does one cities number contain all this info?  

 

 

Miles a second thank you for sharing this and educating us on all this !!  The burden to prove anything must be bloody hard won,maybe I'm just covering the same ground already posted,but the consequences are so awful please forgive the dumb questions,If we all are completely clear what we need,then in some cases,where the purchase isn't on the spur of the moment, we can organise all this pre the trip to an overseas Herp show.

 

many thanks 

 

Stu  

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Hi stu, from what I was told a CITES number will be sufficient now. The import or export paper is what's needed if you are trying to prove legality of frogs brought in pre CITES.

 

As for giving out this number, If selling the original frogs 100% yes. But for froglets I'm really not sure as it could be spread around and eventually dis valued? I would think just informing people that you have the correct CITES paperwork, so should they ever have a problem they can contact you, would be sufficent?

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Now that I think of it, about giving out the cites number when you sell frogs situation, leads to somthing I have discussed with friends before. The lack of paper trails for frogs and being able to trace a frog back to its parents, I think if done properly much like I was given by the couple that sold me the minyobates (first picture) giving out the number would be fine, as all paperwork shown would lead back to you.

 

I think I'm going to look into getting a receipt book printed out and start issuing with every sale I make, if it starts catching on in the UK then soon it might be easier to start tracing lineage?

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Stu, as you know, I am not a lawyer!  I have asked officials from DEFRA about this in the past, in a totally different context, and the response involved a lot of ifs and buts and hand waving.  These are my interpretations of the rules, and I tend to be very cautious!  That's why I stated above this is the strictest interpretation of the rules - i.e. what they have the power to seize should they wish to.  In 99% of cases you might get inspected by someone who understands flexibility, the rules are open to sensible interpretation,  but if you get the work-experience student who is just running down the check list any of us could be in trouble for importing just about any dartfrog, as I understand it.  People need to understand this so that they can make an informed choice, whether or not to risk it.  As you say, the reverse is also true - a person coming from Germany to take back a group of leucs could have the same experience and equally would have no leg to stand on.

 

The crucial part of your post is where you say, "this export number would then presumably be applicable to CB offspring of said frogs listed under that specific import export".  As far as I know, this cannot be assumed to be the case....  So, for example, if frogs are exported from Colombia, with CITES export permits, to Germany and bred, the CITES number may not be immediately accepted as applying to the offspring.  Or, I should say, it would legally apply to the offspring, but proving that they ARE the offspring is the challenge.  To make this cast-iron the importer/seller in Germany would need to apply for an export permit from Germany, for the offspring, using the original CITES number as proof that the parents were legally imported.  You, as the UK buyer, would then go to Germany, collect the frogs from this very responsible and legally aware seller with the German export permit that would identify the frogs as offspring of legally imported stock - this is exactly what Mark Pepper does.  Obviously no one at shows in Europe will do this, but anything short of that is subject to discussion with the Border Agency and in that case I 'believe' that you are basically relying on luck.

 

Remember, this is all just my interpretation, but I have always felt that should I fall foul of the border agency on the way back from an EU show with only a receipt in my hand, legally I wouldn't really have a leg to stand on, which has always put me off....  The other point is that we are of course in the EU.  What difference that really makes, I have no idea.

 

Nick

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I'm so sorry Miles for your experience, as you may be aware I go to the Kikkerdag and Hamm regularly, often twice a year. I have been stopped in the past but my breeder papers and my book of species was enough for customs, the only problem we have encountered is when one of us was eating a cheese sandwich! It would be near impossible to provide the paperwork suggested and in a perverse way means your safer buying imported frogs with the right paperwork than European captive bred?

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Richard yes, that thought had crossed my mind  too !!!! (last sentence not cheese sambos :D }

 

Nick,yes I realize your interpretation,just digging for a completely safe way mate,so no one here is put at risk,I utterly take your point,as Richard above has just illustrated :this all seems down to personal disgression on the part of individuals at border control. It is that very thing I was trying to get past  to be honest.

 

Miles the paper trails thing has bugged me for years here  ! If anything you did leads to more info being out there for the next guy,and could possibly spare that person your experience as a side note I'm all for it. Getting it to catch on might be somewhat harder. But as above I'm all for transaprancy and some form of tracking our frogs. Me mate, I'd have data bases and god knows what :rolleyes: anything so we could find outcrosses etc and have a chance at prolonging the longevity of a given morph in the hobby is monster to me. If we do that bit well we don't need to import so much anyway as we would have interlinked breeding programmes bla de bla,sorry bro derailing.

 

Back to topic:  I don't like the fact that luck seems to be a player here at all,baring what Nick has suggested above.

thanks guys

Stu 

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