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Fight against wildlife trade needs teamwork

September 10, 2013

FMT LETTER: From S Param, via e-mail

The recent news report that the wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic is in the midst of working closely with Malaysian Customs Department in strengthening capacity building programmes with regards to curbing illegal wildlife products such as ivory is indeed is refreshing and welcome development. I am sure animal lovers and all those who are against these heinous illegal wildlife trade activities will be happy to learn of this news.

It is evident from the large consignment of illegal wildlife products especially ivory that has been seized by our customs over the years that some kind of organised internationally linked syndicates are involved in this multi-million ringgit smuggling activities.

In view of the nature in which this illegal trade been conducted the customs alone may not be able to handle the situation. The customs need the support and cooperation of other local and international agencies such as Interpol, Wildlife Department (Perhilitan), Traffic and other related NGOs.

In this context the decision by Traffic to organise workshops for our front line customs officers to expose and familiarise these officers to the wildlife trade and to show them how to detect wildlife products especially ivory in shipments is indeed a commendable move.

According to international reports, illegal wildlife trade is now perceived to be a high profit and low risk activity. Apparently this illegal trade is said to have grown to become the fifth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, human trafficking, counterfeiting and oil trafficking.

Illegal wildlife trade activities are believed to be the primary factor in pushing endangered species into extinction. It provides the platform for these syndicates to strengthen their criminal networks to a point of even undermining national security and global health.

In view of the obvious dangers posed by this illegal wildlife trade which extends beyond national borders, some form of regional and international cooperation and strategy should be worked out to address the growing influence of this illegal wildlife trade. We need to identify regional priorities in illegal wildlife trade enforcement so that a common approach can be taken for regional operations.

I hope the capacity development programmes workshops proposed by Traffic will focus on issues such as intelligence-led best practices like controlled deliveries, questioning wildlife smugglers, risk management and the ethics and professionalism related to building wildlife cases.

Ideally participants to this Traffic capacity development workshop should also be extended to enforcement officers from other related government agencies such as Perhilitan, Department of Veterinary Services, etc.

In view of the serious implications posed by this illegal wildlife trade there is need for a concentrated global response in the form of well committed and focused operational plan to curb the illegal wildlife business. For a start countries especially those in the Southeast Asian region where several illegal wild trade “hubs” have been identified should get together to fight against this wildlife crime.


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