Local, global “Link-up” to combat illegal wildlife trade

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

The Sri Lanka Wildlife Enforcement Network the local coalition of the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) together with international governing bodies taking a much needed stance, this week held the National Consultation Workshop 2011 themed “Linking up with South Asia.”

The ceremonial opening on Monday saw a large gathering of government, public and NGO guests at Taj Samudra Colombo.

Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa graced the occasion as the Chief Guest, while Minister of Power and Energy Patali Champika Ranawaka delivered the keynote. The two day workshop held from 17- 18 January 2011 focused on Illegal Wildlife Trade, consisting of technical and interactive sessions providing a forum for the development of local programmes through networking, sharing and effective dissemination of knowledge and information.

Dr. Chandrawansa Pathiraja, Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation briefing about the background said, “In an era where the country’s economy is moving forward, Department of Wildlife Conservation has a major role to play in developing the eco-tourism industry which has the potential to be one of the county’s main foreign revenue earners. This is null if the biodiversity including wildlife is not conserved properly. Though we have a strong ordinance, which has amended many times in the past with a strong enforcement of the same, yet illegal activities persist. Hence it is time for action and this is the grid, law enforcement agencies should get together and protect the nature for the betterment of both the present generation and generations to come”.

Local agencies including the Department of Wild Life, Sri Lanka Customs, Sri Lanka Police, Forest Department, Central Environment Authority, Department of Fisheries and aquatic resource, Sri Lanka Coast Guards, Botanical Gardens of Sri Lanka represent the Sri Lankan network. Whilst TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL), United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), World Customs Organisation (WCO) are supporting international agencies.

Upbeat about the importance of the local awareness programme, Ranjan Marasinghe, Deputy Director, Department of Wildlife Conservation said, “The main goal of this Experts Group Meeting is to strengthen our local co-operation in combating illegal trade of fauna and flora, and to form a regional network to prioritise such actions on wildlife law enforcement”.

A number of potential activities are identified for SAWEN’s work programme in terms of regional law enforcement responses; addressing information, capacity and technical gaps; and how to engage with other countries and issues such as demand reduction in those countries. The coalition aims to address illegal exploitation and trade of endangered species in the region. The programme promotes implementation of national wildlife protection laws and international species protection treaties, with the long-term goal of reducing illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia through the dismantlement of the region’s major wildlife trafficking networks.