UN urges ASEAN governments to step up efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking

SINGAPORE - Southeast Asia has emerged as a rapidly growing market for the illegal wildlife trade and the United Nations has urged ASEAN governments to step up efforts to tackle the menace.

Today's statement was released on World Wildlife Day 2015, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific said that the regional wildlife market is worth an estimated annual value of US$2.5 billion (S$3.41 billion).

According to Mr. Giovanni Broussard, of the UNODC Global Programme on Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes, "more than 1,200 rhinos were poached for the trade in African ivory in 2014 alone."

The demand for ivory from Asian markets has led to a trickle effect, causing significant harm to elephant and rhino populations in Africa.

Iconic species of elephants and tigers in Southeast Asia have also been affected by the industrial scale of organised wildlife crime.

"Despite efforts by governments and international organisations to curb this crime, the numbers tell us that the illegal trade of wildlife and timber is still on the rise," Mr Broussard said.

UNDOC added in the statement that bold and immediate changes in the way governments address both the demand and supply of illicit wildlife is needed to revert this trend.

"Southeast Asia has become a transshipment hub for the illegal trade in wildlife", warns Mr Matthew Nice, Regional Coordinator of the UNODC Border Management Programme for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

"As the ASEAN regional integration process facilitates legitimate trade with greater investments in infrastructure and less burdensome border controls, greater investments are also needed in law enforcement, justice and effective border management capacity to counter the rapidly growing and evolving threat of wildlife trafficking throughout Southeast Asia."