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Region targets illegal wildlife trade

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090112_04_1.jpg

Officials meeting in Bangkok resolve to tackle trade of endangered species regionally

PHOTO SUPPLIED BY CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL

A Cambodian pangolin.

LOCAL officials have welcomed a renewed multilateral effort to combat the thriving illegal wildlife trade that is threatening to push several of the region's endangered species into extinction.

At a three-day workshop in Bangkok that ended Friday, senior police investigators from Southeast Asia, China and the United States outlined what they claimed to be the first stage of a strategy to dismantle organised crime syndicates responsible for the poaching and selling of pangolins (endangered scaly anteaters), leopards and tigers for their skin and body parts.

The meeting, co-organised by the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN), focused on these three species, considered some of the most highly prized within the lucrative black market, a press release stated.

"Pangolins and big cats (and derivative products) are in high demand and among the most profitable contraband trafficked by criminal syndicates involved in the illegal trade in protected species - a black market estimated by INTERPOL to be worth in excess of US$10 billion annually," the Asean-WEN statement said.

It added that the workshop resolved to help "locate, gather evidence against and arrest the criminal ring leaders behind the illegal wildlife trade".

Chheang Dany, deputy director of the Wildlife Office at the Forestry Administration, told the Post Sunday that the collaboration was a welcome step in opening up dialogue between countries in the region on an issue that risked being neglected.

"So far, there is no common database of animal numbers in the region, nor any sort of strategy in place to counter this problem," he said.

He stressed, however, that although it was a common issue, real change would need to come from individual governments, with those more economically capable taking the lead.

"Countries must take their own initiatives too," he said. 

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