An Ontario taxidermist fined $60,000 after violating federal wildlife law for unlawful polar bear exports

News release

September 12, 2023 – Oshawa, Ontario

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting Canadian and foreign species of wild animals and plants that are, or may be, at risk due to unsustainable or illegal trade.

On September 12, 2023, Cyril D’Souza, an Ontario taxidermist, pleaded guilty in the Ontario Court of Justice in Oshawa to two counts of violating the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). D’Souza was fined a total of $60,000, which will be directed to the Government of Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund. In addition, the Court ordered D’Souza to forfeit one full polar bear mount and two hides or rugs.

In the summer of 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada wildlife enforcement officers launched an investigation when they discovered inconsistent information in the export permits used to export a polar bear mount and two hides from Ontario to China. Under WAPPRIITA, exporters must obtain a permit before exporting regulated species from Canada. The investigation revealed that D’Souza was deceptive and planned extensively in intentionally providing false and misleading information to obtain the permit, contrary to section 11 of WAPPRIITA.

Environment and Climate Change Canada wildlife enforcement officers carried out the investigation, which was based in part on the three-pronged approach for polar bear conservation and management. The approach identifies and tracks legal polar bear hides once they enter trade, ensuring exporters comply with the regulations related to trade and transport. The three elements of the approach include: analyzing the muscle tissue DNA, analyzing the stable isotope of fur samples, and inserting encrypted microchips to track polar bear parts from harvest through export. The collaboration with law enforcement agencies in Nunavut, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and in the United States was key in the investigation.

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Quick facts

  • There has been increased international scrutiny of the polar bear trade worldwide over the last decade. The number of polar bear hides or carcasses exported from Canada each year averages one percent of the total Canadian population size and the numbers exported have been dropping steadily since 2013. The hides and carcasses that enter into trade come from a managed Indigenous subsistence harvest, based on the principles of conservation.

  • In 2016, Environment and Climate Change Canada collaborated with Inuit communities and provincial and territorial agencies to develop the innovative polar bear three-pronged approach for verifying compliance with WAPPRIITA. The objective was to identify and track legally harvested polar bear hides once they enter trade.

  • The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement that Canada signed in 1975. As a party to the agreement, Canada adopted domestic legislation to regulate, or in some cases, prohibit trade of specific species of wild animals and plants, as well as their respective parts and derivatives. WAPPRIITA is the Canadian federal law through which Canada meets its obligations under CITES to regulate trade in protected species.

  • Section 11 of the WAPPRIITA states that no person shall knowingly furnish any false or misleading information or make any misrepresentation with respect to any matter in the Act.

  • Created in 1995, the Environmental Damages Fund is a Government of Canada program administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The Fund helps ensure that court-awarded penalties are used to repair environmental damage or benefit the environment. The Fund receives and redirects the money from court penalties and settlements and aims to invest in areas where the environmental damage occurred.

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