Wildlife trafficking needs tougher international response

By Catherine Teves

March 6, 2019, 4:10 pm

MANILA -- An expert raised urgency for tighter international collaboration against wildlife trafficking.

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-million dollar illicit business activity that's able to transcend national borders for being embedded in legal trade, noted Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Assistant Secretary Ricardo Calderon.

"It's a major challenge for law enforcement," he said Tuesday (March 5) at the 2019 World Wildlife Day (WWD) celebration led by DENR's Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) in Quezon City.

According to RA 9147 (Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act), wildlife means "wild forms and varieties of flora and fauna, in all developmental stages, including those which are in captivity or are being bred or propagated."

BMB Director Crisanta Marlene Rodriguez cautioned against wildlife trafficking, noting loss of any flora and fauna will adversely affect biodiversity and ecosystems which provide food, raw materials, protection from the elements, aesthetics and other benefits.

"Humans, being the highest form of life, are tasked to protect, conserve and properly manage other forms of life," she said at the celebration.

Calderon said he and representatives from Philippine National Police (PNP) and Department of Justice have attended ASEAN ministerial meetings on transnational crimes.

ASEAN already elevated wildlife trafficking to the level of transnational crimes like trading of illegal drugs and trafficking of women, he said.

"So if there are drug lords being monitored by Interpol and other law enforcement agencies, there are wildlife lords monitored in China, Myanmar, Thailand, including the Philippines," he also said.

China is one of ASEAN's partners -- Myanmar, Thailand and the Philippines are among the members of ASEAN.

"As other law enforcement agencies are saying -- and it's what we at DENR also think -- illegal trade of wildlife and timber is always embedded in the legal trade," Calderon said.

Compared to timber, however, he said trafficking of wildlife is more difficult to track.

He said traffickers move wildlife in and out of countries.

In December 2005, ASEAN ministers responsible for implementing CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) launched the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN).

In December 2013, UN General Assembly proclaimed March 3 of every year as WWD to help raise awareness about wildlife. March 3 is the date in 1973 when 80 countries agreed on CITES' text.

CITES is an international agreement between governments to ensure international trade of wild plants and animals do not threaten survival of these species. (PNA)