TRIPOD – Southeast Asiadisrupting wildlife trade in Southeast Asia
(Washington D.C. – 25 May 2023) A wide range and concerning volume of wildlife are being trafficked through the region, and a new report calls for urgent action in this part of Southeast Asia shared by Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
The study reported over 25,000 live animals and over 120,000 tonnes of wildlife, parts and plants seized from illegal trade in this area between June 2003 and September 2021. The illicit trade targeted hundreds of species, from forest dwelling pangolins, freshwater turtles and elephants to marine life such as turtles, seahorses, sharks and rays.
The authors of Illegal Wildlife Trade: Baseline for Monitoring and Law Enforcement in the Sulu-Celebes Seas found the two seas are used more as a conduit to smuggle wildlife between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines, rather than as a transit pathway to other destinations.
Analysis showed that illegal trade was severely affecting marine resources in the area surrounding the Sulu and Celebes Seas, with marine turtles, giant clams, seahorses, and sharks and rays, in particular, seized in large quantities and frequently.
An examination of online wildlife trade in marine turtles, pangolins and sharks and rays from September to December 2021 echoed this, finding that rays were the taxa most frequently offered for sale online in the region and were documented to be stockpiled or sold through live-streaming sessions. In just three months, over 600 online posts were found trading in turtles, pangolins, sharks and rays.
Data also revealed a substantial illegal trade in pangolins and live birds, with the latter accounting for 96% of all live animals recorded as seized in seaports in the area.
“The illegal trade of live animals is increasing at a shocking rate around the world and is targeting a growing number of threatened and endangered species. This report demonstrates the Sulu-Celebes Seas region is not exempt of this pervasive issue that is wildlife trafficking. At IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), we are working with partner organizations and authorities to humanely confiscate live wild animals with the goal of repatriating and releasing rescued wildlife back into their native habitats. Through close collaboration with authorities in Southeast Asia, we streamline the confiscation, care and rehabilitation process so wild animals can safely and quickly be returned to the wild,” said Loïs Lelanchon, Wildlife Rescue Program Manager at IFAW.
The report highlights the deeply interconnected nature of illegal wildlife trade in this region. It argues that solutions must involve looking at the region as a whole, making the case for much greater inter-agency and transboundary cooperation, particularly when the high number of seizures corresponded to only a low number of successful convictions reported.
“Our analysis showed that at least 45 different agencies from these three countries made arrests and seizures, where more than a quarter of incidents involved collaboration between multiple agencies within a country. We are keen to see this collaboration amplified at the regional level between countries, and TRAFFIC stands committed to support this process”, said Serene Chng, Senior Programme Officer of TRAFFIC International Southeast Asia and one of the report authors.
Alongside increased vigilance at formal and informal landing sites to intercept wildlife contraband, the report calls for strengthening the capacity of agencies on investigations, prosecution and post-confiscation handling. To strengthen tripartite collaboration, authors also urged improved inter-agency and inter-country cooperation, through stronger communications streams and joint task forces guided by practical operating procedures across agencies and borders.
The study, which also took an in-depth look at trafficking in marine turtles, pangolins and sharks and rays, also made specific recommendations, such as using existing traceability tools to tackle trafficking in these species groups and improve regulation of the legal trade in sharks and rays.
This study carried out by TRAFFIC was partially funded by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Freeland through a US Department of State- Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs project combating wildlife trafficking in the region: the “Targeting Regional Investigations for Policing Opportunities & Development (TRIPOD)” project.
Note to Editors:
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animal and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we're up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.
Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization staffed by law enforcement, development and communications specialists in Asia, Africa and the America who build capacity, raise awareness, and promote good governance to protect vulnerable people, wildlife, and ecosystems from trafficking, corruption, and neglect. Visit www.freeland.org to know more about our work.
TRAFFIC is a leading non-governmental organization working to ensure that trade in wild species is legal and sustainable for the benefit of the planet and people.
About World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
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