Sunday, July 24, 2011

China Teams Up with Regional Network to Fight Illegal Wildlife Trafficking

Seema, a Bengal tigress at a zoo in Ahmadabad

It has been recently reported that China has joined a regional network consisting of Southeast Asian nations to help in the battle against illegal wildlife trafficking. According to anti-trafficking groups, China has teamed up with the South East Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN) which will boost regional cooperation against the illicit animal trade. Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Freeland Foundation, stated that China's decision to join was because of the network's support of CITES (Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species). This means it will have to start curbing down trafficking of endangered species such as tigers, and body parts of different animals.

The Freeland Foundation is well-known for establishing cooperation among regional governments, local police forces, and even the INTERPOL. It's members say that increased policing has led to increased actions of law enforcement over the past five years. According to the groups recent data, more than 190 actions occurred between April and September 2010, leading to a recovery of 16,000 live animals and fourteen metric tons of animal parts with a value of $6 million in black market. At the same time, police made over hundred arrests. Although this seemed like great news, Freeland's director Steve Galster says that leaders of such gangs continue to evade capture despite the arrests. This helps the trafficking business to continue functioning. And nations like Vietnam has been a prime target for traffickers. In September 2010, Hanoi police revealed ten tiger skeletons, hundreds of sacks containing "fake" gallbladder, and 600 kilograms of elephant bones. Bear skulls, elephant tusks, leopard skulls, and other animal parts were also uncovered. According to Douglas Hendrie of Hanoi's Education for Nature Vietnam, the spur in the nation's economic progress is due to increase in demand for wildlife consumption. However, he says that young children appear to get the message about the dangers to the wildlife from the trade. He further adds that efforts in enforcing laws are also encouraging.

This article not only brings hopeful news about China joining in the ongoing battle against wildlife trafficking, but also gives an important message about the business. That is, despite a number of increase in law enforcement in cracking down various activities, wildlife trafficking still persists as gang leaders evade capture even though they get arrested. I personally believe that in addition to tighter law enforcement, there should also be tighter incarcerations for the ringleaders of various activities. They should be prosecuted in a way that they cannot evade capture. Because of this evasion, Vietnam has witnessed its economic spur because of increased demand for wildlife consumption. I also believe that there should be an increase in community outreach, in order to battle this illicit business. Now that China has joined the battle, it should follow Southeast Asia's example in curbing wildlife trafficking. The nation has long been a major destination wildlife used in medicine and food. It is time that China should pull away from the benefits of wildlife trafficking, and start suppressing it.

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