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SOUTH ASIA: Neighbours to Protect Wildlife

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By A Correspondent

Recognising the danger posed to wildlife from illegal trade, India and its South Asian neighbours have agreed to develop institutional mechanisms to promote harmonised and collaborative approaches to common threats, a government document said.

However, the modalities of this agreement and the ensuing legal structures evolved at the First Meeting on Illegal Wildlife Trade in South Asia held in Kathmandu two years ago are still under discussion.

India is a lucrative market in the USD 20 billion global illegal wildlife trade.

At a time when poaching and illegal trade of wildlife articles have assumed alarming proportions, the Environment Ministry document has conceded that the South Asian nations were "not resourced adequately" to deal with the problem.

A number of regional initiatives have emerged, including SACEP (South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme), SAWTI (South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative) and SAARC Convention on Cooperation on Environment to check the illegal trade of wildlife articles.

"...But (these agencies) have not been resourced adequately to implement activities," concedes the document --Environmental and Social Framework Document for "Strengthening Regional Cooperation in Wildlife Protection in Asia"-- prepared for financial assistance from the World Bank under regional IDA (International Development Association) window.

When contacted, officials in the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) refused to share more details.

Wild animals are killed for the flourishing illegal international trade of their skins, bones, flesh, fur, used for decoration, clothing, medicine and unconventional exotic food.

Victims of the trade include the iconic tiger and elephant, the snow leopard, the common leopard, the one-horn rhino, pangolin, brown bear, several species of deer and reptiles, seahorses, star tortoises, butterflies, peacocks, hornbills, parrots, parakeets and birds of prey and corals.

Yearly trade of wildlife articles probably ranks third after narcotics and the illegal weapons trade, says the document quoting INTERPOL.

The nations across the world are also signatories to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which was set up to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The report says that poaching techniques are "extremely gruesome".

"The more egregious methods include skinning or dehorning live animals and transportation of live creatures in inhuman conditions," it says.

Poaching has become so intense that tigers have disappeared from many parks throughout Asia.

"Nowhere has the impact been greater than in India and Nepal which remain the bastions of tiger conservation," says the document.

India has a Memorandum of Understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.

A Global Tiger Forum of Tiger Range Countries has been created for addressing international issues related to tiger conservation.

India has appealed to China to phase out tiger farming, and eliminate stockpiles of Asian big cats body parts and derivatives. The importance of continuing the ban on trade of body parts of tigers was emphasised.

The economic value of the illegal wildlife trade is determined primarily by cross-border factors. Wildlife are poached in one country, stockpiled in another, and then traded beyond the South Asia region.

Source: South Asia Media Net

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