Asian Lawmakers Join in the Fight Against Illegal Wildlife Trade

11/18/2004

Bangkok, Thailand - Leading lawmakers from Asia met today to discuss a regional approach to combat illegal wildlife trade. In the first meeting of this kind, legislators from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand met with conservationists and law enforcement officials to explore means to amplify their role in combating this growing crisis.

Effective regional cooperation is critical in Southeast Asia, where many species are under pronounced threat from illegal wildlife traders. For example, three-quarters of Asia�s freshwater turtles and tortoises are threatened with extinction, and tigers have almost been hunted out throughout all Southeast Asian countries. The exploitation of Southeast Asia�s wildlife is driven in large part by zoos and markets for luxury food, pets, ornamentals, and traditional medicines in China, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere. In addition to the consequences for the region�s biodiversity, illegal wildlife trade also threatens local economies and in some cases is associated with other types of international organized crime.

�This event is extremely timely,� said Senator Pensak Chagsuchinda of Thailand, �it builds on momentum generated last month by two key announcements at the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES COP-13).� His Excellency Dr. Thaksin Shinawatra, Prime Minister of Thailand, proposed a Southeast Asian Regional Law Enforcement Network to Combat Nature Crimes and offered to spearhead its formation. Bangkok, the regional center for Interpol in Asia, is well positioned to lead the creation of such a network. Complementing this proposal, Environment Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN - see note below) called for enhanced regional efforts to address illegal wildlife trade in their ASEAN Statement on CITES. Indonesia will lead the development of an ASEAN Regional Action Plan on wild flora and fauna in the coming months as a means of implementing the priority actions identified in the Statement.

Russ Mittermeier, President of Conservation International, remarked: �This forum provided a platform for lawmakers, enforcement officials, and conservationists to evaluate strategic interventions to control illegal trade in threatened species.�

The session was organized by Conservation International and GLOBE (Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment) International and sponsored by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, a joint initiative of Conservation International, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank.

(Note: ASEAN countries include: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. For more information on ASEAN see: www.aseansec.org)

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Conservation International (CI) applies innovations in science, economics, policy and community participation to protect the Earth's richest regions of plant and animal diversity in the hotspots, major tropical wilderness areas and key marine ecosystems. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., CI works in more than 40 countries on four continents. For more information about CI's programs, visit www.conservation.org.

GLOBE (Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment) International is the worldwide organization of legislators from around the planet whose purpose is to enhance international cooperation between parliamentarians on global environmental issues. Founded in 1989, GLOBE represents sitting legislators in more than 100 national parliaments and the European Parliament.

The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) aims to dramatically advance conservation of the Earth's biologically richest and most threatened areas in developing countries. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation. For more information, visit www.cepf.net.

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