TUARAN – Ending wildlife trafficking is a daunting task so cooperation should be forged in order to succeed.
This was stated by the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine Novelli during her speech at the ASEAN Regional Forum Workshop on Combating Wildlife Trafficking at Tuaran, here today.
“We need to work together to strengthen trans-boundary and regional cooperation, prevent poaching and trafficking, and mitigate demand.
“We must act now. For the sake of these wonderful creatures. For the livelihoods they provide. For the legacy we will leave our children,” she said.
She stressed that the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network, ASEANAPOL, INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the many governments and NGOs have a significant role to play on combating the wildlife trafficking issues.
Novelli disclosed that coordination is the key.
“For the United States, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order, directing all of our federal agencies to work together on a whole-of-government approach.”
“Our focus has been in three areas: stopping poaching at the source; disrupting the transit of illicit products; and ending the demand for illegal products in the U.S. and the top destination countries in Asia,” she said.
She noted that the States have a role to play and are committed to being part of the solution.
“Since 2005, the United States have supported the ASEAN-Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) to help foster cooperation and sharing of best practices across borders.
“Because of the close cooperation engendered by the WEN, the number of arrests and seizures of illegal wildlife by ASEAN member states has increased eleven-fold. $90 million worth of illegal wildlife products have been confiscated and 1,335 suspects arrested,” she said.
Novelli cited another successful collaboration was the Operation Cobra. She said that the police, customs, and wildlife officials from 28 countries, including representatives from the United States and many countries participated in a month-long global investigative operation targeting wildlife traffickers at all points in the trade chain.
“The second phase of this cooperation – Cobra II – resulted in more than 400 arrests and 350 major seizures of wildlife and wildlife products across Africa, Asia and the U.S,” she said.
She also stated that the seven successful prosecutions resulting from the ASEAN-WEN activities, included Operations Cobra I and II.
“This demonstrate what we can achieve when we work across ministries and borders to go after these criminals. But there is more work to do. We also need to work together to harmonize domestic legal regimes, and ensure the implementation and enforcement of CITES and other international standards,” she added.
In addition to ending wildlife trafficking at the source, Novelli said that there is a need to hit the transit routes hard.
“A range of data show that a large amount of trafficked wildlife products move through ports and airports in Southeast Asia. We want to work together to stem these flows.
“For our part, I have reached out to the American shipping industry to identify specific actions we can take to identify illegal wildlife products. We are also working with airlines to see how we can better train their personnel to identify wildlife products in cargo,” she said.
Novelli was pleased about the ongoing work in key airports such as Bangkok that promotes passenger awareness and enhance inspections.
“It is a positive sign that we are seeing seizures of large shipments across Asia. But we also need to make sure that the criminals involved with transporting these shipments are prosecuted,” she said.
However, she said that addressing demand is also important as working together.
“In the United States, we have strict rules on the importation of endangered species. We are now working to close loopholes in our ivory trade regulations, and have banned all commercial ivory imports, allowing trade only in very limited situations.
“At the same time, we are working with China and other major destination states in Asia to urge them to take measures to stem demand for all endangered species across the board,” she said.
In the join forces with China to support civic outreach toward high-end wildlife consumers; Novelli disclosed that it has resulted in a $322 million decrease in overall trade in tiger bone, rhino horn, and elephant ivory from auction houses in China – a ~35% reduction in auction turnover in mainland China. – SayangSabah