ildlife experts from seven nations across South Asia have laid the foundation for a South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network that will serve as a coordinated regional response to illegal poaching and trafficking of such species as tigers, leopards and bears.
The first meeting of the South Asia Experts Group on Illegal Wildlife Trade concluded here Wednesday with an agreement to establish a secretariat and an outline work program for the new organization.
The experts from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka agreed the structure, functions and operational parameters for the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network, SAWEN.
"Cooperation and coordination between the government agencies supported by their international counterparts is of utmost importance to effectively tackle illegal wildlife trade in the region," said Deepak Bohara, Nepal's Minister for Forest and Soil Conservation.
The government of Nepal has offered to host the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network and act as its interim coordinator.
Aiming to help wildlife law enforcement agencies become better organized than the criminals, the Experts Group agreed that an action oriented approach under the newly formed network should be pursued without delay.
Over the next six months, Nepalese coordinators will assemble information and identify resources and expertise from member countries to develop joint operations, training programs, communication plans and fundraising to enable the network to begin interdicting wildlife trafficking activities.
South Asia contains a range of habitats of global significance that support a unique array of animal and plant species such as tigers and other Asian big cats, rhinos, marine and freshwater turtles and pangolins. This richness of biodiversity makes the region a target for wildlife poachers and traffickers.
While national governments in South Asia take their commitments to conserve their animals and plants seriously, meeting participants all acknowledged that many of the threats to biodiversity extend beyond political boundaries.
Illegal and unsustainable poaching, harvest and trade in wild species of animals and plants often involves transboundary landscapes and habitats and movements of people and goods across porous borders. It is increasingly characterized by organized criminal syndicates working in more than one country, says TRAFFIC International.