Illegal cargo of pangolins and freshwater turtles seized in Thailand
"The Thai authorities deserve a lot of credit for taking such swift and decisive action," said James Compton, Regional Director TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, a joint programme of WWF and IUCN–The World Conservation Union. "It reflects the stronger commitment by Thailand to stop the illegal wildlife trade in its tracks."
The endangered animals were concealed in 60 crates falsely declared as red-eared sliders, an unprotected North American freshwater turtle. The 63 black marsh turtles (Siebenrockiella crassicollis) and one Malayan snail-eating turtle (Malayemys subtrijuga), however, are listed on Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The listing means that the trade in the species is legal only with a valid CITES permit. The pangolins, however, although listed on CITES Appendix II, are subject to what is known as a zero quota, which means that all international trade is illegal.
Pangolins (Manis javanica) are protected in Thailand and Malaysia, but remain widely used in traditional Asian medicine. Thailand has become a major transit hub for pangolins smuggled from Malaysia and Indonesia en route to Laos, Vietnam and China. In Thailand, trading in protected species carries a penalty of up to four years in prison and/or Thai Baht 40,000 (US$1,000).
Southeast Asia is a global hotspot for the illegal wildlife trade due to the region's rich biodiversity, extensive transport links and trade routes, high local demand, and low public awareness of conservation.
To combat the illegal trade several Southeast Asian countries have established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Law Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), an initiative designed to promote inter-agency and international cooperation to combat the illegal wildlife trade. The network is targeting wildlife crime syndicates by promoting intelligence sharing and cross-border operations. As part of the network, Thai police, customs and environmental officials have joined hands to boost coordination in investigating and preventing wildlife crimes.
"This [recent seizure] is an important and successful example of cooperation between different agencies and NGOs," said Dr Schwann Tunhikorn, Deputy Director of Thailand's National Parks Wildlife and Plants Department.
"This type of cooperation will improve our efforts to curb the illegal wildlife trade and it is exactly the spirit of ASEAN-WEN."
• The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regulates international trade in more than 30,000 species of wild animals and plants through a system of certificates and permits. The Convention is currently applied in 169 nations, including all 10 ASEAN Member Countries — Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
• ASEAN Member Countries have developed a regional action plan on trade in wild fauna and flora (2005–2010), which was endorsed at the ASEAN ministerial level in September 2005. Thailand was given the lead to develop part of the plan that relates to improved regional law enforcement collaboration. The ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network was officially launched in December 2005, at a ministerial-level meeting held in Bangkok.
For further information:
James Compton, Regional Director
TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
Tel: +6(03) 7880 3940