South Asian ministers pledge regional co-operation in tackling illegal wildlife trade
South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network to be established
Jaipur, India, May 2008—The eight member countries of the South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme (SACEP) have pledged to work together to tackle illegal wildlife trade in the region.
In a Ministerial statement, known as the “Jaipur Declaration”, countries in the region have supported the development of a South Asia regional strategic plan on illegal wildlife trade and the establishment of a South Asia wildlife enforcement network (SAWEN). Countries also endorsed a South Asia regional strategic plan on illegal wildlife trade that will focus on key areas of work, including co-operation and co-ordination; effective legislation, policies and law enforcement; sharing knowledge and effective dissemination of information; intelligence networks and early warning systems; and capacity building.
The Declaration followed the Eleventh Meeting of the Governing Council of SACEP, where Environment Ministers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, issued a Statement stressing the importance of mutual networking and technical support to address the needs of the region in combating illegal wildlife trade. “Regional co-operation can provide the best solution for regional problems,” the Ministers said.
SACEP is an inter-government organisation established in 1982 for promoting regional co-operation in South Asia in the environment field.
Countries also urged the establishment of a South Asia experts group on illegal wildlife trade to provide a forum for technical representatives to develop regional programmes through networking, as well as the sharing and dissemination of knowledge and information.
The South Asia region is a storehouse of biological diversity and rich terrestrial, freshwater and marine resources. It is home to 15.5 percent of the world’s flora and 12 percent of the world’s fauna, including threatened species such as Tigers, elephants, rhinos and marine turtles. However, illegal trade and over-exploitation of wild animals and plants poses a major challenge to the conservation of biodiversity in South Asia. Last year, a meeting of the SACEP Governing Council called for the development of a work programme to combat illegal trade in wild species and their products, and help strengthen enforcement of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in the region.
SACEP Director-General Dr Arvind A. Boaz said the commitment lays the foundations for a co-operative effort to crack down on illegal trade and to improve the management of wild species and the implementation of CITES in the region.
“This is the first comprehensive wildlife trade initiative of its kind in South Asia and SACEP is confident it will lead to further commitment in the region, and even closer South-South co-operation to address illegal wildlife trade problems effectively," Boaz added.
The Head of TRAFFIC India, Samir Sinha, said that regional co-operation was absolutely essential in tackling the challenges of wildlife trade.
“TRAFFIC warmly welcomes the initiative by all eight countries of South Asia in taking this important step of coming together and seeking to address poaching and illegal trade as a region,” he said. “We look forward to helping make this initiative a conservation success.”
The Jaipur Declaration endorses the outcomes of the First Regional Workshop on the South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative which was held in Nepal from 31 January–1 February 2008. The workshop was organised by the Government of Nepal, SACEP, WWF Nepal and TRAFFIC and was made possible thanks to funding from the US Department of State, SACEP and WWF.
TRAFFIC has been closely involved in assisting SACEP in developing this initiative. In July 2007, SACEP and TRAFFIC signed a memorandum of understanding to develop and implement a South Asia Regional Strategy for combating illegal trade in wild flora and fauna and establishing a South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network.
TRAFFIC has been involved in similar regional efforts worldwide, including the intergovernmental Regional Action Plan and its Wildlife Enforcement Network that has been established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the development of the European Community Action Plan on CITES Enforcement. TRAFFIC is also a member of the Coalition Against Wildlife Trafficking (CAWT), a global initiative comprising governments and non-governmental organizations aimed at focusing public and political attention and resources on ending the illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products.