- A TRAFFIC team opportunistically surveyed markets within seven Lao PDR cities for 10 days in April 2016 and three days in July 2016, and found nearly 2,800 pangolin scales for sale.
- TRAFFIC researchers also found 74 helmeted hornbill products during an eight-day market survey in Lao PDR between April 2016 and July 2016.
- A report by the CITES Secretariat, too, highlighted gaps in the country’s laws, a lack of law enforcement, as well as the need to work with neighboring countries to tackle transboundary trafficking of species.
Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) has failed to address illicit wildlife trade in the country, three new reports have found.
Strategically located close to China, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, Lao PDR has emerged as a notorious transit hub for trafficking of wildlife and wildlife products. But gaps in the country’s laws, as well as a lack of law enforcement, are impeding efforts to tackle wildlife trafficking, according to recent investigations by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat.
“Lao PDR clearly needs to address these issues as a matter of urgency or risk becoming dubbed the wildlife smuggling capital of Asia,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, TRAFFIC’s Senior Programme Officer in Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
A TRAFFIC team opportunistically surveyed markets within seven Lao PDR cities for 10 days in April 2016 and three days in July 2016, and found nearly 2,800 pangolin scales for sale. These scales seemed to be targeted at Chinese clientele for use in traditional medicine or jewellery, the TRAFFIC team found.
Lao PDR was also involved in a total of 43 reported pangolin trafficking incidents between 2010 and 2015, the team found, over three-fourths of which involved pangolins poached from Asian countries. More than half of the pangolin shipments were smuggled into Lao PDR from Thailand.
Conservationists believe that the pangolin is the world’s most trafficked animal. Lao PDR’s native pangolin species are protected by national laws. But the country’s legislature is weak, and ineffective enforcement “allow pangolins from both Asian and African countries to be shipped through the country and into consumer countries such as China and Vietnam,” the authors write in the report.
In a second investigation, TRAFFIC researchers found 74 helmeted hornbill products during an eight-day market survey in Lao PDR between April 2016 and July 2016.
This large, critically endangered bird, found in the rainforests of Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo, is hunted for its solid bill casque, often referred to as hornbill ivory. The helmeted hornbill products being sold in the markets included carved and uncarved casques, as well as casques turned into loose beads or pendants. The hornbill products, too, were focused at Chinese buyers.
In each shop where Helmeted Hornbill products were found, the team also observed between 100 to 1,000 elephant ivory products, indicating rampant illegal trade in wildlife products.
“Lao PDR’s porous borders and high levels of alleged corruption, have raised the country’s profile as a major conduit for the trafficking of high value and highly threatened wildlife,” the authors write in the second report.
The report by the CITES Secretariat, too, highlighted the need for Lao PDR to work with neighboring countries to prevent transboundary trafficking of species. One of their recommendations include “strengthening the country’s criminal legal framework in relation to illegal trade in wildlife, notably, by amending the Penal Code to increase penalties for serious wildlife-related offences, especially when they are perpetrated through organized groups, transnationally and repetitively.”
In a positive step towards tackling illegal trade in tigers, the government of Lao PDR announced today that it was looking for ways to phase out tiger farms, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society. The announcement was made during the 67th Meeting of the Standing Committee to the CITES, ahead of the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa.
“WCS applauds the Government of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR) for its announcement today that it is committed to closing facilities that keep and breed tigers for commercial purposes,” Susan Lieberman, WCS VP of International Policy and Head of the WCS Delegation to the CoP, said in a statement. “Lao PDR’s plans to shut down their tiger farms is needed to enable better enforcement behind protecting these species.”