The face-to-face exercises with the newly designed materials were critical in bringing up-to-date information and tools to the front lines in some of the region’s wildlife trade hotspots. However, employee turnover, regulatory changes, and evolving trends in wildlife crime mean there is an ongoing need for training.”
Renee Ye, Training and Capacity Building Officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia
Preparatory courses focusing on CITES in Thailand and Lao PDR
Over 100 officers in Thailand and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic were introduced to the issues facing the Mekong region through a video which describes its ongoing struggle to tackle wildlife crime and the need to intensify anti-trafficking efforts.
These resources have focused on building implementers’ understanding of the processes and rules relating to the cross-border wildlife trade, which are governed by CITES.
“In an area that serves as a source, transit point, and destination for the illegal wildlife trade, officers with training and knowledge will make the difference. For example, having an executive at key gates, with knowledge of wildlife crime and the ability to act with confidence, is a serious disruption in the course of Traffickers,” Ye said.
Held in Chiang Khong in Thailand and Vang Vieng in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in April and June, the sessions featured wildlife and forestry officers, police, customs officials and prosecutors working in different provinces of the two countries. The exercises were organized jointly with WWF-GMP and funded by the US Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) within the framework of Combating Wildlife Trafficking in the Golden Triangle Project.
Under this project, TRAFFIC is also developing a training video on wildlife trade regulation with a focus on the CITES application in English, Thai and Lao languages, and is expected to bring the training to a much wider regional audience once completed. Training videos in the local language will enable agencies to conduct training at minimal cost, often and quickly for the many officers whose job it is to regulate the wildlife trade and combat wildlife crime.
TRAFFIC’s Training and Capacity Building Team in Southeast Asia is also developing a toolkit that will guide enforcement agencies on how to implement the training themselves – for use beyond the life of this project. The toolkit will be made available online once it is complete.
Dealing with Malaysia’s new law enforcement audience
These tools have also been used in other CITES training courses in Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia under a separate project* funded by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Forensic Laboratory to strengthen enforcement and reduce illegal trade in CITES listed species.
The training in Sarawak brought together a select group of enforcement and protection officials new to CITES-related trade. Since the participants came from wildlife enforcement units in each state region, this allowed for in-depth discussions between officers from different regions. This workshop was hosted by the Sarawak Forest Foundation (SFC).
In this workshop, officers learned about species identification, how to list them in CITES Annexes, and the rules regarding permitting, smuggling routes, and the growth of the illegal wildlife trade online.
The training team at TRAFFIC also took training resources, such as what was recently published Expanded Wildlife Identification Guideto a new audience in Sabah and connect with newly appointed rangers and wildlife officers working at the Central Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex, which monitors trade in plants and animals across the state.
The workshops provided a medium for discussion about the loopholes, challenges and solutions to crime. Officials at both sessions reported an increase in the wildlife trade online and shared the many challenges they face in investigating and prosecuting such cases.
As the upcoming Conference of the Parties (CITES) on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) looms large, TRAFFIC Southeast Asia has continued efforts to share knowledge with law enforcement in the region.