What is a UN peacekeeper doing with a live chimpanzee in his baggage? When challenged on leaving Sierra Leone last year, the Ukrainian national in question claimed diplomatic immunity. He continued on his way, taking the chimp with him.
Wendy Jackson of Lincoln University in New Zealand is gathering reports on national diplomats and UN staff trafficking endangered wildlife. "I had a lot of problems getting people to talk to me," says Jackson, who revealed her findings on 26 June when the Society for Conservation Biology met in San Jose, California.
Trafficking by diplomats is only a small part of the illegal wildlife trade, Jackson believes. The true extent of the problem is hard to determine because of the protection diplomats enjoy.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, some of the worst offenders come from North Korea. In 1999, for instance, Kenyan authorities confiscated 689 kilograms of ivory from an individual travelling on a North Korean diplomatic passport.