February 15, 2012 00:00 By Pongphon Sarnsamak
Police and customs heads from 13 Asian nations agreed yesterday to tighten controls and improve cross-border cooperation to curb the smuggling of tigers and other endangered species.
The accord came at the conclusion of a two-day international “Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime”, which brought together top police and customs officers from countries that still have tigers living in the wild.
The tiger-protection move was agreed to by the officers from Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, India, Nepal, Burma and Thailand.
“The tale of the tiger is not simply about conservation, it is also about crime,” said Yury Fedotov, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). “It involves transnational organised crime, high profits, widespread corruption, money-laundering, fraud, counterfeiting and violence.”
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), tigers have been listed as endangered and banned for trade since 1987.
At the conference, tiger-conservation experts presented an up-to-date situation analysis of threats to wild-tiger conservation, particularly worldwide and Asian links to wildlife crime, including the trade in tigers and tigers’ parts.
World Customs Organisation secretary-general Kunio Mikuriya said the global customs community was firmly committed to working closely with its partners to stop criminal trafficking in endangered species and other environmentally sensitive goods, by ensuring more vigilant and effective border enforcement through a range of measures.
Thai delegate, Theerapat Prayurasiddhi, deputy director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said authorities here were controlling the smuggling of tigers along the borders. The department will make a map of hot spots in the risk area for smuggling of tigers along borders such as Mukdahan province, near Laos, and Satun province near Malaysia.
On the black market, the price for a tiger ranges from Bt500,000 to Bt1 million. Tiger parts including meat and skin are also in demand. Most tigers that are illegally traded are exported to neighbouring countries such Vietnam and China.
“There is an attempt from powerful countries in Asia to delist tigers from CITES’ Appendix 1 so they could legally incubate and trade tigers and tiger parts,” Theerapat said.
The department yesterday handed to Vietnamese authorities at the conference the names of 20 Vietnamese traders to follow up on cases of animal trafficking. The traders have already been convicted of illegally trading and exporting of tigers.
The conference was told there are about 3,500 tigers living in the wild in 13 countries. Another 4,000 live in private zoos in China and Vietnam.
The conference was organised by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime, the World Customs Organisation, the World Bank, the CITES secretariat, and Interpol.