Published 23rd September 2016
Johannesburg, South Africa, 23rd September 2016—The role of Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in the international trafficking of protected wildlife will be under scrutiny today in the lead up to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting that gets fully underway this Saturday.
Kanitha Krishnasamy, Boyd Leupen, Or Oi Ching
During the CITES Standing Committee today, government representative members will examine a report written by the CITES Secretariat following a Mission to Lao PDR in July this year which is heavily critical of the way the country is failing to meet its requirements under CITES.
Their report highlights critical gaps in legislative coverage, a lack of law enforcement effort and a need to work with neighbouring countries to address transboundary trafficking of species along with a range of recommended actions.
The CITES Mission report also raises concerns “that rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens are smuggled through Laos to other countries in Asia…the country is targeted by organized crime groups as a transit point.”
Illustrating Lao PDR’s poor record in addressing wildlife crime, TRAFFIC today released two reports into the country’s role in the trafficking of pangolins and the Helmeted Hornbill.
TRAFFIC’s research has provided further insight to the serious failures to regulate wildlife trafficking highlighted by the CITES Secretariat’s Mission to Lao PDR
Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Manager in Southeast Asia“Lao PDR clearly needs to address these issues as a matter of urgency or risk becoming dubbed the wildlife smuggling capital of Asia.”
According to a second TRAFFIC report Observations of the Helmeted Hornbill trade in Lao PDR, between April and July 2016, TRAFFIC surveys recorded 74 Helmeted Hornbill products in three locations: 18 in Vientiane, 36 in Luang Prabang and 20 in the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone.
The Helmeted Hornbill, a large rainforest bird, is unique in having a solid bill casque which can be carved and is frequently referred to as “hornbill ivory”. Despite being fully protected in their range States in Southeast Asia, numbers are increasingly being trafficked mainly to China, with Lao PDR acting as both a transit point and the hornbill ivory being sold in Lao PDR’s border towns with China.
The failure of law enforcement was also highlighted in the CITES Mission report, which notes “authorities stated that no arrests or prosecutions related to illegal trade in rhino horn, elephant ivory and other wildlife specimens have occurred in the country since 2012,” and that “significant loopholes” still exist in national legislation.
Particularly damning was their assessment of the CITES Scientific Authority in Lao PDR, which the Mission report states “did not seem to take a very active part in the day-to-day implementation of CITES.”
There has also been a lack of progress in addressing concerns over the laundering of captive bred specimens as wild-caught, with the Ministry of Science and Technology claiming it “does not currently have the capacity to conduct this type of research.”
In March this year, CITES recommended a suspension of trade in Long-tailed Macaques, various reptiles and an orchid from the Laos for persistent failure over a number of years to address such concerns despite repeated warnings and even trade sanctions for failing to do so.
At today’s Standing Committee meeting, members will decide whether Lao PDR must make significant improvements in their management of wildlife trade or potentially face serious trade consequences in July next year.
Helmeted Hornbill products were observed in three locations over eight days
were recorded during the survey
elephant ivory products were found in each outlet selling Helmeted Hornbill products
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