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12 July 2013

INTERPOL meeting strengthens response to wildlife crime in Southeast Asia

BANGKOK, Thailand – Some 20 officers from police, customs and environmental agencies in seven Asian countries attended an INTERPOL meeting in Bangkok to consider ways to improve the enforcement of wildlife protection laws in the region, with a focus on protecting Asian ‘big cats’.

Organized by INTERPOL in collaboration with the Royal Thai Police and the National Central Bureau (NCB) in Bangkok, the five-day (8-12 July) Capacity Development and Needs Assessment Meeting for Investigative Wildlife Operations in Southeast Asia aimed to make the protection of wildlife and the enforcement of related laws a priority issue in the participating countries.

Topics of discussion during the training included information and intelligence management; intelligence-led enforcement; multi-agency collaboration at the national level through the establishment of National Environmental Security Task Forces (NESTs); methods for questioning wildlife smugglers; controlled deliveries; operational planning techniques; and INTERPOL tools and services.

Delegates at the meeting also created a strategy for assisting law enforcement agencies in collaborating on future transnational operations and activities.  

During the opening ceremony, Mr Alfred Nakatsuma, Director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Regional Environmental Office, said, “We cannot solve wildlife crime as individual countries. We are stronger together.”

The meeting was organized with the support of donors including USAID, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Education for Nature Vietnam.

Poaching and organized wildlife trafficking is a growing transnational crime, and the primary threat to the survival of tigers and other Asian big cats like leopards, snow leopards, Asian lions and cheetahs. INTERPOL, through its Project Predator, works with member countries to support and enhance the governance and law enforcement capacity for the conservation of Asian big cats.

“Environmental fugitives are increasingly transcending national borders. The international enforcement community needs to work together to locate and arrest them using INTERPOL’s unique policing tools,” said David Higgins, Manager of INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme.

The training portion of the conference was followed by a two-day regional planning meeting, where attending enforcement agencies identified regional priorities in wildlife enforcement and worked to develop a common approach for planning regional operations, bridging communication gaps and strengthening cooperation.

Countries participating in the meeting were China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. Representatives from partner organizations also attended, including the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), CITES Secretariat, World Customs Organization (WCO), Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN WEN), USAID, IFAW, TRAFFIC, the Freeland Foundation and the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).

Regional investigative and operational responses to wildlife crime will also be a focus of the INTERPOL Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Events to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from 4-8 November 2013.