I have been following the case of Mamie Manneh (aka Mamie Jefferson) in New York who smuggled bushmeat into the USA from Liberia. I first wrote about this extraordinary story in The Trouble With Lions and described how she had used a defense of the right to religious freedom as one of her reason for the smuggling. I again mentioned it in my blog of Sept 22nd.
In a report of Dec 12th from the New York Village News Blog the case seems to have finally come to an end, and the probationary sentence seems utterly trivial for a crime that involved the importation of 720 pounds of baboon and warthog meat. As the judge said, the deliberate circumventing of the law to hide the importation was the problem. It seems he was not swayed by Jane Goodall's written testimony about the severity of the situation, or indeed by the clear evidence of the potential diseases risks involved with such importation.
When I got my copy of the National Geographic magazine of January 2010 the whole thing came into perspective. A story by Bryan Christy, with disturbing photos by Mark Leong, tells about the Kingpin of Asia’s wildlife trade. His name is Wong Keng Liang, known to wildlife traffickers and officials around the world as Anson. His work (if this is the right word) makes Mamie’s crime seem utterly trivial. Christy’s figures are mind-boggling, almost impossible to comprehend, and the fact that Anson gets cooperation from some government officials in Asia just makes it worse. When he as arrested in 1998 Anson managed to plea bargain his way out of a sentence that might have involved 250 years in prison and a $12.5 million fine. He ended up with 71 months, with credit for 34 months already served. By all accounts the smuggling and trading continued throughout his time in gaol and continue to this day, the latest venture being a big interest in tiger farming.