Published 29 March 2019


ASEAN commits to strengthening efforts to curb illegal wildlife trade

Bangkok, Thailand, March 2019—TRAFFIC welcomes a statement made last week by Ministers from the ten Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries outlining the region’s commitment to strengthen efforts to address illegal wildlife trade and tackle wildlife crime.

Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam—the member states of ASEAN—issued the joint statement which describes illegal trade of wildlife as “among the greatest challenges of ASEAN as the economic, social and environmental repercussions are severe and widespread in scale.”

The ASEAN statement also commits member states to improving international co-operation as part of their combined efforts to meet obligations under the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which calls on countries to “Take urgent action to end poaching and trafficking of protected species of flora and fauna and address both demand and supply of illegal wildlife products”.

ASEAN has also vowed to ensure the successful implementation of the Plan of Action for ASEAN Cooperation on CITES and Wildlife Enforcement, 2016–2020. The commitment comes just weeks ahead of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will take place in Colombo, Sri Lanka this May. 

Ivonne Higuero, Secretary-General of CITES commended Thailand as Chair and the ASEAN member states for their commitment to collaborative actions and called for “strong collaboration across source, transit and destination countries, to ensure that criminal activities along the entire enforcement chain are addressed and neutralized, from source to final destination.” 

Figures for the scale of illegal wildlife trade worldwide vary: a 2012 WWF-commissioned report estimated its value as at least USD19 billion per year, making it the fourth largest illegal global trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking.

The Southeast Asia region functions as a source, transit and destination for a wide variety of trafficked wildlife products, including elephant ivory, rhino horn, timber, pangolins, reptiles, tigers and songbirds. 

“Despite the relentless pressure on natural resources, there are some positive signs of meaningful action in Southeast Asia, and it’s extremely encouraging to see that Thailand, in its capacity as overall chair of ASEAN for 2019, has chosen wildlife trafficking as a priority environmental issue,” said TRAFFIC's Director in Viet Nam, Sarah Ferguson.