ASEAN agrees on roadmap to fight wildlife trafficking

Thailand spearheaded support for saving the planet through protecting its wildlife at a high-level meeting of Southeast Asian ministers last week.

The Kingdom coordinated commitment to a road map to fight wildlife trafficking among all ten countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and conservation groups applauded the plan.

“This is exactly what is needed, strong regional cooperation and sound national and regional strategies,” said Ivonne Higuero, secretary-general of CITES, or the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. She commended Thailand for “its strong leadership, and the member states of ASEAN for their strong commitment.”

Surasak Karnjanarat, Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, said: “The unsustainable use and illegal trade of wildlife is one of the greatest challenges of ASEAN as the economic, social and environmental repercussions are severe and widespread in scale.”

Surasak was speaking at the Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade hosted by Thailand in the northern city of Chiang Mai as part of the Kingdom’s role as chair country of the regional group for 2019.

The ten ministers issued a statement committing their countries to implement global and regional wildlife trade policy, demand reduction efforts, law enforcement and curbing wildlife cybercrime.

Southeast Asia is one of the richest regions in the world in terms of biodiversity. Its rainforests and other habitats are home to wildlife and crucial to sustainable development, poverty alleviation and livelihood improvement in Southeast Asian nations, the ministers said.

The meeting allowed ASEAN member countries to exchange lessons and ideas from their programs to combat the illegal wildlife trade in their countries. International partners including CITES, UNODC, INTERPOL, IUCN, and various NGOs, also attended and offered constructive recommendations and collaboration to support ASEAN cooperation in addressing illegal wildlife trade.

“Combatting illegal wildlife trade is not an easy task and cannot be solved overnight. However, if governments and policymakers identify this as a priority, we can achieve a concrete solution for the problem,” Surasak said.