(KPL) WWF today (September 6) congratulated the Government of Laos for hosting a key regional meeting on transboundary illegal wildlife trade and for its commitment to tackling wildlife crime that threatens endangered species such as the elephants, tigers, bears and pangolin.
The meeting was held on August 30 and 31 between governments, enforcement agencies, overseas missions of the US, UK and the EU and conservation organizations across the Greater Mekong Region and China.
Lien Thykeo, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, stated that the Lao PDR, especially at the leadership level, is committing to tackle the illegal wildlife trade and is working closely with international organizations to implement the Hanoi Statement from the 2016 Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade.
The next major international meeting will take place in London on October 11-12, hosted by the UK Government and Laos committed to attend the conference.
“Laos cooperated with many countries on protecting and inspecting the illegal wildlife trade and has agreed with Vietnam, China, South Africa and Thailand to organise the meeting on combating illegal wildlife trade across around the border,” said Dr. Lian Thykeo. “In order to effectively take action on the illegal wildlife trade, the Greater Mekong countries should act on the commitment that we have on CITES.”
Mr. Thongphanh Ratanalangsy, Deputy Director General of the Department of Forest Inspection, stated during the second-day’s opening of the conference the Lao Government’s intention to follow CITES recommendations “to continue to implement the PM05, including phasing out the domestic ivory market and other illegal trade in wildlife.” PM05 is a Prime Minister’s Order issued May 18, 2018 that directs Ministers, Heads of Ministry-Equivalent Organisations, the Vientiane Capital Governor and Provincial Governors across the Lao PDR to take strict action on wildlife law enforcement, compliance with national laws on the management and inspection of wildlife trade, and commitments to international laws.
“WWF is pleased to support the Government of Laos in taking action against the domestic sale of ivory and the illegal sale and purchase of wildlife products in Laos; similarly we would support the other Greater Mekong Countries,” said Francois GUEGAN, Conservation Director, WWF-Laos. “This meeting sends a signal, not only in Laos, but in the region that the Governments are serious about working across national borders to enforce the laws that protect the endangered species such as tigers, elephants, rhinos and bears, and to stop the wildlife crime in the region.”
In addition, commitments were made on cooperation between Laos, Vietnam and China around trade within the Golden Triangle region, including a commitment from China to host joint training exercises for Customs personnel. The Director General of Luang Namtha Provincial Office of Agriculture and Forestry also stated that more mechanisms are needed to improve the awareness of Chinese tourists and businessmen and women about wildlife policies in Laos. Vietnam meanwhile discussed expanding its current transboundary Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation around wildlife crime with Laos from four provinces to six.
The meeting was organized by WWF with support from the Embassy of Netherlands in Vietnam in cooperation with the Government of Laos and featured over 80 participants from Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, China as well as TRAFFIC, WCS, IUCN, CITES, UK Government, EU and USAID.
“Time is running out for wildlife living in the Mekong region and also endangered species illegally traded internationally. The time for talk is over and action to investigate, arrest and prosecute illegal wildlife trade criminals is urgently needed,” said Stuart Chapman, Regional Representative, WWF-Greater Mekong.
Participants in the meeting re-visited international, regional, bilateral and country commitments to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT). This includes their responsibilities as signatories to CITES, the world’s main treaty regulating international trade in endangered species, follow-up of action points from the 2016 Hanoi Conference Statement, and ASEAN level developments.
They identified the latest trends and issues on wildlife crime and trafficking in the region as well as focusing on critical issues concerning endangered species such as elephants, tigers, pangolins, bears and rhinoceros (through an expert panel discussion from countries and organizations). Participants also identified critical border hotspots and issues related to trafficking routes.
Participants developed a roadmap to increase awareness and knowledge of best practices and innovation in the areas of law enforcement, law/policy reform and judiciary processes, technology and innovative practices, cross-border collaboration, public outreach, demand reduction, community and NGO engagement.
Lao-Wildlife Enforcement Network also presented the law enforcement activities on combating illegal wildlife trade in Laos over the past years.
WWF currently supports an anti-wildlife crime programme in the Greater Mekong Region, including in the Lao PDR, where wildlife poaching and illegal wildlife trade markets have caused serious declines and local extinctions of endangered species populations. The overall objective of the programme is to effectively reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, as well as to improve ranger capacity and support wildlife law enforcement activities and capacity building, for example, for the Department of Forest Inspection and its provincial offices of the government of the Lao PDR.