Asian Nations Pledge Cooperation on Rampant Wildlife Trade
- All eight
South Asian nations have agreed to step up cooperation in addressing
wildlife trade problems in the area.
The region, home to such rare
and prized species as tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, Asian
elephants and one-horned rhinoceroses, is recognized as one of the prime
targets of international organized wildlife crime networks.
Wildlife trade officials from
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and
Sri Lanka met in Kathmandu last week and defined a series of joint actions
under the new South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI).
The direction for the
initiative was given by ministers from the eight nations, at the Tenth
Meeting of Governing Council for the South Asia Co-operative Environment
Programme (SACEP) last year.
“The agreement reached on
SAWTI puts in place the foundations for a cooperative effort to crack down
on illegal trade and to improve the management of wild animals and plants
that can be legally traded under national laws in the region,”¯ said
SACEP Director-General Dr Arvind A. Boaz.
SAWTI is charged with
developing a South Asia Regional Strategic Plan on Wildlife Trade for the
period 2008-2013. The Kathmandu workshop - organised by the Nepal Ministry
of Environment, Science and Technology, SACEP, WWF Nepal and TRAFFIC -
also agreed on the establishment of a South Asia Experts Group on Wildlife
Trade. The group will examine cooperation and coordination between
countries and agencies, effective legislation, policies and law
enforcement, the sustainability of the legal trade and livelihood security
for those engaged in it, and improving intelligence networks and early
“It is very encouraging to
see this level of regional cooperation developing on a pernicious trade
and criminal networks that harms species populations and robs communities
of the benefits they could enjoy from their biodiversity," said WWF
International’s Species Programme Director, Dr Sue Lieberman.
WWF Nepal’s Country
Director, Anil Manandhar, said that the greatest challenge was combating
the highly organised illegal trade networks between poachers, domestic
traders and international traders of wildlife products, combined with
highly porous borders between some countries. “No single nation can
control such illegal activities alone," Manandhar said.
The Senior Officer,
Anti-smuggling, fraud and organized crime, at the Secretariat for the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES), Mr John Sellar, also welcomed the Initiative. “We look
forward to cooperating with SAWTI, which we believe offers considerable
potential in combating illegal trade in wildlife, whilst also working to
ensure that legal trade in wildlife is sustainable and benefits local
communities in this part of the world.”
Global Programme Coordinator
for the wildlife trade network TRAFFIC, Roland Melisch, said that
international cooperation — and, in particular, regional cooperation —
is absolutely essential in tackling the challenges of wildlife trade.
“TRAFFIC would certainly
like to applaud the initiative of all the eight countries of South Asia in
taking this important step of coming together as a region and seeking to
jointly address the pressing issues of ensuring sustainable wildlife use
and trade and eliminating the problem of illegal poaching and trade,”¯
Closing the workshop,
Nepal’s Honourable Minister for Environment, Science and Technology,
Farmullah Mansoor, confirmed the Government of Nepal’s commitment
towards combating the illegal wildlife trade in the region. Nepal
currently holds the chair position of SACEP.
"SAWTI is the first
wildlife trade initiative of its kind in South Asia and SACEP is confident
it will lead to further commitment in the region, and closer engagement
among neighbours to effectively address wildlife trade problems," Dr