ASEAN commits to controlling wildlife trade

Posted on 11 October 2004
Bangkok, Thailand - The 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) today announced a bold initiative to work together to address the region's wildlife trade crisis.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade-monitoring network and WWF, the global conservation organization, congratulated the ASEAN nations for this effort. 
They also called upon the global CITES community to support action in Southeast Asia, a region which has long played a role as supplier and trade entrepot for a significant portion of the global trade in wildlife.

The region's own rich biodiversity makes it a target for traders interested in a variety of animals and plants ranging from tigers and elephants, to rare orchids and both marine and freshwater turtles. 
The ASEAN Statement on CITES focuses on six key areas of co-operation. These include the need for increased law enforcement co-operation, comprehensive legal frameworks, and more scientific information to be made available to guide wildlife trade management by CITES authorities.

Beyond the ASEAN Statement itself, the 10 countries have agreed to develop an Action Plan for 2005-2010. 
"This initiative is remarkable because of the diversity of nations involved, and singular focus on wildlife trade," said HE Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand’s Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, in launching the ASEAN Statement on CITES to the press today. "It will lead to further commitment in the region, and closer engagement among neighbours to combat illegal wildlife trade." 
As economic growth has increased, demand has risen in Southeast Asia for products such as birds and reptiles for the pet trade, luxury items made from ivory and hawksbill turtle shell products, and high-value traditional medicines such as musk and ginseng. 
"The ASEAN Statement on CITES puts in place the foundations for an integrated regional effort to crack down on illegal trade and to improve the management of animals and plants that can be legally traded under CITES, to also support the sustainable development of ASEAN countries," said James Compton, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. "However, making CITES work to its optimum potential as a conservation tool, depends on action at the national level." 
Lao PDR’s accession to CITES in 2004 means that all 10 countries of the ASEAN grouping are now Parties to the Convention.

This creates a common procedural framework to ensure that international wildlife trade is both legal and sustainable.  
"We hope that the ASEAN Statement on CITES will precipitate increased efforts on the ground to address trans-boundary trade along Thailand’s borders with Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar," said Dr Robert Mather, WWF Country Representative in Thailand. "WWF has been active in Thailand in supporting awareness raising, enforcement co-operation and training efforts that could be used as a model for other countries under the framework of this regional initiative." 
Minister Suwit Khunkitti noted the support provided by TRAFFIC and WWF in the development of the ASEAN Statement, and requested ongoing assistance with the development of the Action Plan to translate ASEAN's political commitment into action on the ground. 
For further information:
James Compton,
TRAFFIC South East Asia,
+60 12 316 6904
Robert Mather,
Country Representative,
WWF Thailand,
+66 989 735 33