BANGKOK: Malaysia will work with Thailand to spearhead the establishment of a regional enforcement network to combat the illegal wildlife trade that is threatening the survival of plants and wild animals.
Responding to Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatras call against wildlife trafficking made at the opening of the 13th Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) last week, the head of the Malaysian delegation to the biennial meeting, Mohd Yusoff Mydin, said:
We dont have a problem with that. In fact, there is already an on-going discussion for closer co-operation between the enforcement agencies to tackle illegal cross-border trade of wildlife cargoes.
Mohd Yusoff, the under-secretary of the conservation division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, said a joint declaration on regional co-operation was expected to be made towards the end of the 13-day meeting attended by government officials of the 166 Cites signatories.
The declaration after the meeting of Asean natural resources and environment ministers on Oct 11 was expected to focus on areas of information exchange, capacity-building of wildlife enforcers and education and awareness programmes. It will also signal the recognition to be accorded to wildlife trade by the highest decision-making political forum of the region.
Hailed as a treasure trove of biological diversity, tropical South-East Asia is battling an unsustainable exploitation of its wild species, exacerbated by porous borders and the dependence of largely impoverished populations on wildlife for food, medicine as well as hard currencies.
Seen as a strategic move to erase Thailands notorious image as a vibrant wildlife entrepot, Thaksins announcement was nevertheless appreciated by conservationists, some giving him a standing ovation after his speech.
Thaksin promised that the network would secure real and lasting solutions to the illegal trade issue.