Enhancing collaboration and cooperation in the fight against transnational wildlife and forest crime should be the focus of Asia and Africa to successfully fight the vice. This was the message by Lusaka Agreement Task Force at the Bangkok Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation for addressing wildlife and forest crimes and attaining sustainable development goals (SDGs). Leading anti wildlife trafficking experts, scientist and law enforcers from 30 countries of Africa, South Asia and ASEAN countries gathered in Bangkok at the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) from 28th to 30th August 2018 to look into science and technological solutions and innovations to address poaching and illegal wildlife trade and to meet the targets of the SDGs.

Lusaka Agreement Task Force Acting Director Mr. Edward Phiri during a press conference

The conference delved into three key issues which governments in the larger south are facing in their efforts to address illegal taking, trading and trafficking of protected species, outline the available (technological, infrastructural, financial and governance) support for national governments, and institute an architecture for enhanced international cooperation for developing solution-oriented strategies, devising innovative approaches and tools, and providing advisory services to advance the whole-of-the-state approach in effectively tackling the transnational organized crime. The three regions at the conference (Africa, South Asia and ASEAN) called for concerted political efforts to enhance south-south cooperation to suppress illicit trade in high valued wildlife which is estimated to be worth around US $23 billion a year, the fourth most lucrative global crime after drugs, humans and arms.

Lusaka Agreement Task Force’s Acting Director, Mr. Edward Phiri, said illegal wildlife trade had mainly affected both Africa and Asia, with Africa mainly being a source for contraband wildlife and forest products. He therefore reiterated the need for enhanced cooperation and collaboration between Africa and Asia to suppress the trade.

The Deputy Director General of Thailand’s National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department Dr. Pinsak Suraswadi described illicit wildlife trade and trafficking as a critical global problem that has affected many countries, and often the two are found to have strong links to other syndicated crimes. He stated that the problem was global, and therefore called for countries to work together, adding that the Thai government has accorded great importance to the issue, with the Kingdom being at the fore in fighting the crime within ASEAN.

Meanwhile the Director General of Nepal’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Department, Man Bahadur Khadka, lauded the holding of the conference which brought three key bodies of the three regions to develop a holistic view and approach in suppressing wildlife trade and trafficking.

Under the south-south cooperation the “Bangkok initiative” will be further explored and introduced at the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment to be held mid next year by the Government of Thailand. Similar initiatives will be explored in Africa with the Lusaka Agreement taking lead.

The experts pledged to share their best practices in the region, as their agencies strive to incorporate new technology and innovations such as Wildlife Enforcement Monitoring System (WEMS, currently implemented by Lusaka Agreement Task Force in Africa), wildlife forensics, and real-time monitoring systems like the Network-Centric Anti-Poaching System (NCAPS) cameras used in Thailand’s Thap Lan National Park into their enforcement operations to capture poachers.

The Bangkok conference is the third such conference to integrate wildlife enforcement with science and technology into wildlife-crime suppression. The first was held in 2014 at UN University of Japan in Tokyo, and the second took place last year in Nairobi organized by UNOOSA at UN Environment in Nairobi.