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Monday
Jun042018

Lao PDR Prime Ministerial Order raises hope for clean-up of country’s illegal wildlife trade hubs

Bear bile products on sale in Boten © TRAFFIC Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 5th June 2018—TRAFFIC has welcomed a new Order issued by the Lao PDR Prime Minister to tighten regulations against hunting and trade of protected wildlife in the country.

Order No. 5 issued on 8th May directs strict action be taken on wildlife law enforcement, stops the establishment of wildlife farms and instructs that those found trading prohibited wildlife be investigated and prosecuted.

“TRAFFIC welcomes the new Order and the initiative taken by the Lao PDR government and hopes they prove to be pivotal towards eliminating illegal wildlife trade in the country, especially in places like Boten,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Acting Regional Director for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.

The move comes just weeks after a study in Boten, a notorious wildlife trading border town in one of Lao PDR’s special economic zones, reported the discovery of 980 items comprising live animals, parts and products for sale in a single day of observation.

The study, published in Global Ecology and Conservation, highlights the scale of the problem and calls for urgent attention to end the illegal wildlife trade in Lao PDR’s Special Economic Zones. In April 2016, traders openly stocked bear products, pangolin scales, elephant skin and tiger bone wine for sale, in violation of national legislation.

The animals, parts and products found came from at least 13 mammal species and two reptile species recorded from just seven outlets.

The trade in wildlife for medicinal use was the most dominant, particularly involving bears. Bear-based products made up 43% of all products recorded. Traders reported that bear products were sourced from China, in contravention of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

One facility housing many Asiatic black bears in cages was found just outside Boten town centre during the survey. Up to 2017, at least 60 bears were known to be held there. TRAFFIC has learnt that the facility and the bears have now been moved to a different location in the north as areas around Boten are being cleared for the upcoming high-speed railway linking the Chinese city of Kunming and Lao PDR’s capital, Vientiane. It is important for captive facilities to be investigated for any misconduct.

“We hope that strict enforcement of the Order will trigger the permanent closure of wildlife farms and unlawful captive facilities in the country. These facilities should also be rigorously checked prior to any re-designation as zoos, to prevent the laundering of wildlife into trade”, said Krishnasamy, who is also lead author of the Boten paper.

The survey findings point to Boten’s inherent link with China—the town sits just a kilometre from the Lao PDR-China border, in one of the country’s Special Economic Zones and is known largely to cater to Chinese markets, with many outlets being run by Chinese nationals, prices quoted in yuan and clocks set to Beijing time. 

The study finds that collaboration between Lao PDR and China is critical to the success of any actions, calling on both nations to jointly and proactively address illegal trade concerns through bilateral platforms.

Just last week, the Presidents of Lao PDR and China agreed to advance the building of a community of shared future between the two countries, including strengthening exchanges for ecological and environmental protection. Last month, the public security ministries of China and Lao PDR also agreed to intensify their crackdown on cross-border crimes at the first ever ministerial meeting on law enforcement and co-operation.

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