A senior official of the United States Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has urged Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, to tighten their watch in ports to stop wildlife trafficking.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel Foote, on World Wildlife Day last March 3, conducted a telephone briefing participated in by journalists from Southeast Asian countries.
Foote identified Southeast Asia as one of the three major conduits of wildlife trafficking.
He identified the Philippines as transit port for Australian wallaby, yellow-chested cockatoos from Papua New Guinea and long-beaked echidnas from Indonesia, among others.
Foote said countries in the region are origins and transit points of illicit wildlife trade to premier destinations like China, which treats wildlife as major ingredient in traditional medicines.
Other major destinations are the United States and members of the European Union.
From the Philippines, the most in demand is the Palawan forest turtle.
“Wildlife trafficking is a multibillion-dollar criminal enterprise that not only raises a critical conservation concern but also represents a serious threat to the security and economic stability of the countries involved. World Wildlife Day presents an opportunity to raise public awareness on the impacts of wildlife trafficking on the natural environment and the people who share it as well as to highlight the key role which the US is playing to combat this illegal activity,” Foote told reporters from Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines, among others.
Wildlife trafficking is considered most acute in Southeast Asia because of lax law enforcement, weak border controls and the lure of high profit.
“Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime that has devastating impacts on the ecosystem and the society. It pushes species to the brink of extinction, restricts economic development, threatens security, provides funding and strength to violent criminals to undermine the rule of law,” Foote said.
He added that his office in Bangkok is conducting training for law enforcers, prosecutors and even judges.
“In Southeast Asia, we provide legal training, investigative and prosecution capacity as well as build regional cooperation to go after wildlife traffickers. No country can be effective in tackling this issue on its own,” the American State Department official said.
He added that he hopes to strengthen global enforcement efforts and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products.
He added that the US, since 2014 has been at the forefront in global combat against wildlife trafficking, particularly in attending to the three main pillars, namely strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand and expanding international cooperation.
Foot said his office “is using the experience we have developed working with international law enforcement and criminal justice community over the past 40 years in combating different forms of crimes, particularly narcotics trafficking, to counter wildlife trafficking. Our main efforts include strengthening legislative framework with our partner nations, enhancing investigative and law enforcement functions, building prosecution and judiciary capacity and strengthening cross-border cooperation.”