Third Member of Flikkema Family Receives Sentence, $50,000 Fine for Smuggling Wild, Exotic Birds
WELLAND, November 1, 2001 - A major supplier of exotic birds was sentenced Tuesday for her role in a scheme which saw thousands of birds illegally imported into Canada and then illegally exported to the United States. Johanne Flikkema, of Fenwick, Ontario was convicted by indictment in the Ontario Court of Justice, Welland, Ontario on July 11, 2001. For her role in the operation, the Court sentenced Mrs. Flikkema to one year in jail, to be served in the community, imposed a fine of $50,000, and ordered her to perform 40 hours of community service work.
Mrs. Flikkema is the third member of her family involved in the trade of wild and exotic birds. Her husband, Mike Flikkema, and their son, Harold Flikkema, were convicted and fined on similar charges in 2000. The two received fines totaling $75,000. As well, Mike Flikkema was sentenced to three months in jail.
"This is an excellent example of how countries around the world are working together to enforce wildlife legislation aimed at preserving and protecting wildlife and endangered species. Even though the smugglers' actions crossed international boundaries, law enforcement has the capacity to follow such activities," said Gary Colgan, Chief of Wildlife Enforcement for Ontario, part of Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service. "Environment Canada is encouraged by the strong action being taken against them. It will serve as a deterrent to anyone considering smuggling wildlife."
The Flikkemas operated Flikkema Aviaries in Fenwick, Ontario. They were a major Ontario supplier of exotic birds. The investigation by Environment Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that from December 1, 1997 to October 6, 1999, Flikkema Aviaries illegally exported 3,882 tropical finches with an estimated value of $97,000, and illegally imported approximately 756 tropical finches, 30 parakeets and 20 mynas at an estimated value of $19,000.
These bird species are threatened by over-exploitation by the pet trade, and are protected under the world wide Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES). In Canada, CITES is implemented through the Wild Animal and Plant Protection & Regulation of International & Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). Under WAPPRIITA, it is an offence to import or export CITES protected species, including their parts or products, without a CITES Permit.
Both Johanne Flikkema and Mike Flikkema have several previous convictions involving illegal import and export of live birds. When crossing international borders, the Flikkemas declared that these wild birds were non-CITES species in order to avoid international permit requirements. This violated not only conservation laws, but also health regulations designed to prevent the spread of tropical diseases. Mrs. Flikkema was also convicted on June 1, 2000 in a U.S. court for similar offenses. She was jailed for six months for smuggling approximately 1,000 tropical finches into the U.S. and for making false statements.
WAPPRIITA was passed in Canada in 1996 to meet Canada's obligations under the world wide convention, CITES. Environment Canada is responsible for the enforcement of this legislation. Persons convicted under WAPPRIITA can face a fine of up to $150,000 or five years in prison on indictment. The penalties are less for a summary conviction. Corporations face fines of up to $300,000.
CITES was established to protect wild animals and plants from over exploitation by regulating their international trade. Canada was an original signatory to the Convention in 1975. Today, there are over 150 countries that enforce CITES.