Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Prime Minister’s Order Gives New Hope for Wildlife

By:  KPL, June 4, 2018

The new Order by Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith on the management and inspection of prohibited wild fauna and flora is a significant step forward in the fight against illegal wildlife trade, tiger and bear farms, poaching and transnational trade in endangered species, WWF said on Thursday, May 31.

If it is strictly enforced, the Order could help Laos become a regional leader on combating this multi-billion dollar trade that threatens the extinction of species like tigers, elephants, pangolin and bears.

Prime Minister’s Order No. 05 was issued on May 8th, 2018 and directs Ministers, Heads of Ministry-Equivalent Organisations, Vientiane Mayor and Provincial Governors across the country to take strict action on wildlife law enforcement, compliance with national laws on the management and inspection of wildlife trade, and commitments to international laws.

"WWF-Laos applauds this move by the Lao Government to seriously address the illegal wildlife trade that threatens some of the world’s most iconic endangered species such as tigers, elephants, bears and pangolin,” said Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director.

"This is a great moment for the Lao PDR to show regional leadership in the fight against illegal international wildlife crime and also to keep Lao wildlife safe. If it is strictly enforced, this could mark a turning point for wildlife conservation and WWF stands ready to provide technical assistance to the Government of the Lao PDR."

Specifically, the order instructs authorities to stop the hunting of all wild animals and the import, transit, export and trade of all wildlife body parts.

It stops the establishment of wildlife farms and recommends turning existing farms into safari or zoos for conservation, tourism or scientific purposes.

In addition, the order instructs the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to work with other ministries to register wildlife and wildlife products owned by individuals and organizations. Ivory, bones and rhino horns, fake or real, should be inspected, seized and destroyed. Hunting weapons used in poaching should be collected and destroyed.

The order further instructs officials to “strictly inspect and patrol along vulnerable areas, points of arrival and departure, special economic zones and other areas”. Violators found trading or transporting prohibited wildlife are to be investigated and prosecuted.

In addition, the order requires agencies to crack down on the import of wildlife at international checkpoints and borders.

Ministries are to proceed with the inspection, listing and stopping all business entities trading in wildlife parts “including bones, skins, horns, ivory, rhino horns, gallbladders, teeth, claws and other parts, and products and souvenirs that are made from animal parts at markets, hotels, special economic zones, tourist sites, airports, international checkpoints and other locations.”

WWF currently supports an anti-wildlife crime programme in the Greater Mekong Region, including in the Lao PDR, where wildlife poaching and illegal wildlife trade markets have caused serious declines in endangered species populations.

The overall objective of this programme is to effectively reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, as well as to improve ranger capacity and support wildlife law enforcement activities and capacity building for the Department of Forest Inspection and its provincial offices.

“Strict enforcement of this order will have an incredibly positive impact on the wildlife of Laos and beyond, and make a bold statement that the Lao PDR is taking the threat of illegal wildlife trade seriously,” added Mr. Bouasavanh. “WWF-Laos stands ready to support our Government to make it happen.”

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