SAARC nations pledge cooperation to curb wildlife trade

Kathmandu, Feb. 8: SAARC countries flagsAll eight SAARC nations -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka -- have pledged to enhance cooperation in curbing wildlife trade in the region.

According to an Environmental News Network (ENN) report, wildlife trade officials from SAARC countries met here last week and defined a series of joint actions under the new South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI).

The direction for the initiative was given by SAARC ministers at the Tenth Meeting of Governing Council for the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) last year.

South Asia is home to rare and prized wildlife species such as tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, Asian elephants and one-horned rhinoceroses. International organized wildlife crime networks are often known to target these animals.

“The agreement reached on SAWTI puts in place the foundations for a cooperative effort to crack down on illegal trade and to improve the management of wild animals and plants that can be legally traded under national laws in the region,” ENN quoted SACEP Director-General Dr Arvind A. Boaz, as saying.

SAWTI has been charged with developing a South Asia Regional Strategic Plan on Wildlife Trade for the period 2008-2013.

The Kathmandu workshop - organised by the Nepal Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, SACEP, WWF Nepal and TRAFFIC - also agreed on the establishment of a South Asia Experts Group on Wildlife Trade. The group will examine cooperation and coordination between countries and agencies, effective legislation, policies and law enforcement, the sustainability of the legal trade and livelihood security for those engaged in it, and improving intelligence networks and early warning systems.

WWF International’s Species Programme Director, Dr Sue Lieberman, described the initiative as very encouraging, while WWF Nepal’s Country Director, Anil Manandhar, said that the greatest challenge was combating the highly organised illegal trade networks between poachers, domestic traders and international traders of wildlife products, which used the highly porous borders between some of the countries to pursue their illegal activities.

“No single nation can control such illegal activities alone," Manandhar said.

Global Programme Coordinator for the wildlife trade network TRAFFIC, Roland Melisch, said that international cooperation — and, in particular, regional cooperation — is absolutely essential in tackling the challenges of wildlife trade.

Closing the workshop, Nepal’s Environment, Science and Technology MInister Farmullah Mansoor, confirmed Nepal’s commitment towards combating the illegal wildlife trade in the region. Nepal currently holds the chair position of SACEP. (ANI)