Enforcement agencies brought together to stop the illegal wildlife trade
The commitments national agencies in India and Thailand made at a recent meeting we facilitated with our partners Freeland are a major step forward for protecting wild animals.
Recently I was in New Delhi, India, representing World Animal Protection at a meeting of wildlife crime investigators and enforcement officers from India and Thailand. We organised the meeting with our partner Freeland, a front line counter-trafficking organisation.
Our aim was to increase cooperation between agencies fighting illegal wildlife trade across both countries. Nine other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) were also represented in efforts to step up cooperation across the whole region.
Keeping wild animals in the wild
Organised criminal groups are taking thousands of animals out of the wild every year and selling them as pets, medicine, or into tourist entertainment. The animals suffer at every step of the way. It is only through working with enforcement agencies that we can help end this suffering.
Working together, agencies can detect and disrupt the trafficking of wildlife by organised criminal groups. They can document illegal business activities and identify laws that have been broken in each other’s jurisdictions. Ultimately they can coordinate operations to arrest the couriers and kingpins that are jeopardising the lives and welfare of animals. But coordination isn’t simple.
The challenges of transnational and organised wildlife crime
There are agencies preventing and rescuing animals from being trafficked into a life of poor welfare or often a cruel death. Time and again however, I hear from journalists, police and officials who say there is not enough cooperation between those fighting the illegal trade of wildlife.
Useful intelligence and evidence is being gathered by people in different agencies and organisations all over the globe. But sharing it effectively can be difficult. It might not be clear which agency, or who at that agency, should actually receive such classified information. Official protocols allowing information sharing may not have been set up because of resource and time pressures.
However, organised criminal groups are free of such constraints. They can be dynamic and flexible in the pursuit of illegal profits made at the expense of animals. So we all need to be better at building relationships to stop such cruel profiteering.
Increasing cooperation between agencies
That’s why we organised this meeting, to build on the existing joint enforcement efforts in South-east Asia. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) of India, and the Royal Thai Police (RTP) are developing an information sharing relationship, signing a Memorandum of Understanding. Ties are also stronger with police, customs and environment agencies throughout South-east Asia, via the ASEAN-WEN Law Enforcement Extension Office (LEEO).
We will continue to support such agencies, providing intelligence and evidence to expose the illegal activities of identified criminal networks. Thousands of wild animals are already trafficked across the globe every year by these networks. That number will only rise if we do not act now.
Whilst this meeting may seem like a small step, it is a significant move towards lasting and sustainable cooperation between India, Thailand and potentially across Asia. In demonstrating their commitment to working together, they are working towards keeping wild animals where they belong - in the wild. I, for one, applaud this commitment.
Wildlife. Not entertainers.
One of the destinations for wild animals caught in illegal trade is the tourist entertainment industry. We are building a global movement to reveal the suffering behind the scenes at cruel wildlife tourism attractions.
Together we can help tourists and responsible travel companies protect wild animals around the world. Join the movement today.
Image: World Animal Protection Investigations