KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s initiative to push for a more concerted effort among Asean member countries to combat wildlife trafficking in the region, has been welcomed by conservation groups.
They opined that more stringent and coordinated efforts by inter-governmental agencies in Asean was crucial as it was critical to end the lucrative illegal wildlife trade in the region.
In lauding the initiative, WWF-Malaysia executive director and chief executive officer Datuk Dionysius SK Sharma said wildlife trafficking was a critical global issue that needed to be addressed in a big way.
“Illegal trade is clearly a chronic threat to our country as it empties the forests of tigers, their prey and other wildlife,” he said.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman at a workshop in Tuaran, Sabah last month had said that Malaysia, as Asean chairman this year, would push for stronger regional cooperation to combat the crime.
He added that the Asean Wildlife Enforcement Network (Asean-WEN), which was set up in 2005 as an inter-governmental initiative to combat cross-border illegal trade of fauna and flora, should step up its role to promote the capacity of its members to combat wildlife trafficking.
The three-day Asean Regional Forum (ARF) Workshop On Combating Wildlife Trafficking, co-chaired by the government of the United States of America and Malaysia, was the first of its kind under the framework of the ARF.
Traffic South East Asia, an international wildlife trade monitoring network said for the Asean-WEN to work more effectively, its members should work to harmonise wildlife legislation and penalties for offenders.
“They should also work together to better enforce national laws and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES).
“In addition to regional cross-border cooperation and joint enforcement efforts, the Asean-WEN could also work together to raise the level of public awareness on illegal wildlife trade and subsequent conservation needs,” Traffic South East Asia regional director Dr Chris Shepherd said in an email reply to Bernama, here.
He added that Malaysia’s Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act could be used to book offenders, as wildlife provisions were included under both regulations, and wildlife smuggling had very often operated under the guise of legitimate businesses.
According to the Asean-WEN website, scientists believe that more than 40 per cent of the animal and plant species in Southeast Asia could be wiped out this century, with at least half of the losses representing global extinctions. — Bernama