NEPA probing illegal export of endangered Lignum Vitae to Europe from Jamaica

The Lignum Vitae’s stunning flower in bloom. (Photo: Rashad Penn, Pinterest)

The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), has officially launched an investigation into the recent illicit export of a sculpture made from Jamaica’s endangered Lignum Vitae flower to a western European country.

NEPA, in a statement on Thursday (September 3), while not indicating the specific country, said that it was notified in late August and that the item has been seized on arrival, pending the probe.

“The agency (NEPA) was notified by the [importing] country’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Management Authority on August 21, 2020,” NEPA noted.

Furthermore, the agency asserted that all exports of products made from the Lignum Vitae plant require an export permit, as the species, Jamaica’s national flower, “is listed as threatened by CITES, and is categorised as an endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.”

The trees of Lignum Vitae are indigenous throughout the Caribbean, as well as the northern coast of South America, and have been an important export crop to Europe since the colonisation intensified in the 16th century.

Once found widespread across Jamaica, the flowering tree’s numbers have dwindled over the years. There is currently an effort to protect the Lignum Vitae and prevent the species from going extinct.

Stiff penalties for offenders, NEPA warns…

Morjorn Wallock, Director of the Legal and Enforcement Division at NEPA said, “It is strongly recommended that persons apply for their export permit. Failure to do so may result in legal action that is far more costly.”

“Individuals who fail to secure an export permit are liable for prosecution under the Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act. If convicted before a parish court, they may be fined two million dollars or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding two years. Both fine and conviction may be applied,” Wallock added.

A healthy, mature Lignum Vitae in full bloom. (Photo:

“If convicted in the Circuit Court on an indictment, persons may be fined and/or be imprisoned for a term not exceeding ten years. Specimen will also be seized by the importing CITES Country and the exporter charged under their respective national legislation,” the Director of NEPA’s Legal and Enforcement Division asserted.

CITES, which addresses the trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora was signed on March 3, 1973 and was entered into force on June 22, 1997 in Jamaica.

Its main purpose is to ensure that no species of wild fauna and flora becomes or remains subject to unsustainable exploitation because of unregulated international trade.

In Jamaica, the trade in wild flora and fauna are regulated under the following legislations:

1. The Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act, and Regulations

2. The Plants (Quarantine) Act and Regulations

3. The Animals (Disease and Importation) Act, and Regulations

4. The Aquaculture, Island and Marine Products and By-Products (Inspection Licensing and Export) Act and Regulations