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SOS Rhino : In the News : Conservationists urge attention given to illegal wildlife trade

Conservationists urge attention given to illegal wildlife trade
2004-09-21 18:15:39

BANGKOK, Sept. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- Governments should give same priority to crack down illegal wild trade as they react to the illegal drug trafficking, conservation group WildAid said here on Tuesday, warning the former has developed into a cross-border crime threatening world's ecological balance.

"After drugs and arms, the illegal wildlife trade is the next most profitable form of black market business in the world," Steven Galster, Director of WildAid Thailand, told reporters at a press conference.

Statistics provided by WildAid shows, a rhino horn poached at Mombasa in Kenya is first sold at 300-500 US dollars to local traders and can end up being priced 37,000-50,000 dollars in Aisa's end market.

Price of tiger skin can also jump from 80-100 dollars per piecepaid to poachers to 3,000-15,000 dollars offered to end buyers.

The buying and selling of endangered animals is now estimated at over 6 billion US dollars a year, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Meanwhile, the illegal wild trade has developed into a well-mapped network which connects producing places with destination markets lying geographically far away such as Africa and Asia and the Pacific region.

Citing the situation in Southeastern Asia as an example, Glaster noted that the region now has become the hub of world's illegal wild trade due to its abundance in extinct species and unique geographic location.

When local species falling in victims of illegal hunters and traded around the region, shipments of poached wildlife and plantsare also ferried from Africa, South America and Australia into theregion through Singapore or Indonesia, where they are transported to Malaysia and Thailand and traded further up to countries aroundthe whole Asia Pacific region.

On the other hand, local governments lack of information exchange, interaction and legal backup to fight the well-organizedcross border crime.

"Most government still treat it as a low priority crime," said Galster.

Taking Thailand as example, Galster said, though local law enforcement officials did a good job to bust poachers and small traders, many illegal traders got off for the law putting very light punishment on the crime.

"People are putting into jail and get off by paying 40,000 baht,around 1,000 US dollars," he said. "It's a small percentage of what they made in the illegal wild trade."

Besides, people behind of the business and wholesale traders usually escape from local authorities' arrest for they might come from other countries and get false document for the shipment.

In a bid to raise attention on the issue and fight against the crime, WildAid are calling on governments attending an international conference on the trade in endangered species to create a new "Asian Wildlife Law Enforcement Network".

Party countries of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference in Bangkok will be held from Oct. 2 to 15. Enditem

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