Organised criminal networks aided by wildlife cybercrime, inadequate laws and dismal conviction rates allow illegal trade to flourish
A new strategy is urgently needed to curb wildlife trafficking in southeast Asia, one of the world’s biggest biodiversity hotspots, according to Southeast Asia: At the heart of wildlife trade, a new report released on February 19, 2020 by TRAFFIC, a non-profit working on wildlife trade.
The trafficking of over 895,000 pangolins during 2000-2019, 225,000 kg of African Elephant ivory during 2008-2019, 100,000 pig-nosed turtles during 2003-2019 and 45,000 songbirds seized during 2018-2019 were just a small part of the illegal trade conducted across the region, the report revealed.
Organised criminal networks aided by wildlife cybercrime, poor market regulation, inadequate laws and dismal conviction rates allow illegal trade to flourish.
Local circumstances, widespread corruption and a lack of political will were also responsible for the thriving of such trade in the 10 countries that were profiled in the report.
While successful seizures of wildlife contraband across the region were to be commended, the many “basic enabling factors” that enabled “jaw-dropping” illegal trade should be eradicated and the momentum of “some positive changes” should be built upon, noted the report’s authors.
“Not a day goes by without a wildlife seizure taking place in southeast Asia, and all too often in volumes that are jaw dropping,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, director for the southeast Asian chapter of TRAFFIC and one of the report’s authors.
“This body of work reinforces the position and significance of southeast Asia’s footprint on biodiversity use and management,” said Monica Zavagli, the report’s co-author and senior officer for Wildlife TRAPS, a project implemented by TRAFFIC to tackle the issue of wildlife crime.
Policy interventions, closing legal loopholes, law enforcement and co-operation between civil society organisations, the private sector and government organisations are just some of the measures needed to curb illegal trade, said the report.
“This assessment shows the close links between ASEAN countries and the wider world. The region is source, consumer and transit personified. Only political will at all levels of government and a willingness to act will break the grip of illegal trade chains and networks,” said Krishnasamy.
Populations of all the species profiled in the report have suffered from wildlife trafficking.
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