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Singapore International website, 6 Jun 05
ASEAN stands firm against illegal wildlife trade
Written and produced by Daphne Koh
Southeast Asia: a region where lush rainforests and abundent wildlife thrive. In this week's Eco Watch, find out how ASEAN and international organisations are working hard to preserve this natural paradise.
Delegates from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have recently drawn up a five year action plan to protect the region's rich biological diversity. Wildlife species in Southeast Asia have long been facing threats of survival due to illegal and unsustainable trade. According to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, illegal wildlife trade in South East Asia includes the capturing of birds and reptiles from the region for sale as pets. Ivory from elephants and the the hawksbill turtle's shell have also been sought after, as they can be made into luxury goods.
What are the challenges in trying to clamp down on these illegal trades?
James Compton is Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, a joint wildlife trade monitoring programme of WWF-World Wildlife Fund For Nature and The World Conservation Union.
JC: The biggest problem we face particularly in Southeast Asia, as well as in other regions in hte world, is the lack of management provisions for the legal trade. Part of TRAFFIC's work is trying and look at the monitoring systems that need to be put into place so that the illegal trade can be stopped and that the detection of illegal cargoes, the efficiency of law enforcement, and of screening of cargos and the fact that once these cases are caught - once they have been intercepted - that they actually go to court and is prosecuted, and there are adequate penalties in place to deter repeat offenders. There are examples of really good enforcements and very good work by the authorities to stop a trade from happening but the penalties and the law that stop this enforcement is not adequate enough to give sufficient deterrence for people to become repeat offenders.
But the recent confiscation of smuggled wildlife species from Southeast Asia, has shown that the region is going all out to clamp down on the illegal trade. But much still needs to be done, says Mr Compton.
JC: Governments are doing their level best to increase the efficiency of their law enforcement, to crack down on the illegal trade, but usually the traders are one-step ahead of the game; and switching trade routes, using different names to conceal the shipment and its a battle that is on-going. And we at TRAFFIC are trying very much to get the right partnerships together with government agencies, with industries, the private sector that is involved in the legal trade, trying to work with them to eliminate illegal trade, and community groups themselves at the harvest level to try to increase the sustainability of species that are able to be traded so that they won't face the threat of extinction in the long-term.
The newly-drawn ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora will add strength to this global effort to fight illegal wildlife trade Firstly it provides a platform for cooperation amongst member nations. This is done through law enforcement networking, inter-agency collaboration, and the sharing of information. Also, the regional Action plan also aims to educate the public on the problem of illegal wildlife trade. Academics, traders, and other interest groups will be engaged to get the discussion going.
ASEAN Wildlife Trade Initiative on the TRAFFIC website
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