Washington, Feb 8 : All eight South Asian nations - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have agreed to step up cooperation in thwarting illegal wildlife trade, in addition to addressing the management of wild animals and plants in the area.
The region, home to such rare and prized species as tigers, Asiatic lions, snow leopards, Asian elephants and one-horned rhinoceroses, is recognized as one of the prime targets of international organized wildlife crime networks.
According to a report in ENN (Environmental news Network), the pledge of cooperation was taken by wildlife trade officials from the eight South Asian countries at Kathmandu last week, and has defined a series of joint actions under the new South Asia Wildlife Trade Initiative (SAWTI).
"The agreement reached on SAWTI puts in place the foundations for a cooperative effort to crack down on illegal trade and to improve the management of wild animals and plants that can be legally traded under national laws in the region," said SACEP (South Asia Co-operative Environment Programme) Director-General Dr Arvind A. Boaz.
The Kathmandu workshop - organised by the Nepal Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology, SACEP, WWF Nepal and TRAFFIC - also agreed on the establishment of a South Asia Experts Group on Wildlife Trade.
The group will examine cooperation and coordination between countries and agencies, effective legislation, policies and law enforcement, the sustainability of the legal trade and livelihood security for those engaged in it, and improving intelligence networks and early warning systems.
"It is very encouraging to see this level of regional cooperation developing on a pernicious trade and criminal networks that harms species populations and robs communities of the benefits they could enjoy from their biodiversity," said WWF International's Species Programme Director, Dr Sue Lieberman.
According to WWF Nepal's Country Director, Anil Manandhar, the greatest challenge was combating the highly organised illegal trade networks between poachers, domestic traders and international traders of wildlife products, combined with highly porous borders between some countries.
"No single nation can control such illegal activities alone," he said. SAWTI is the first wildlife trade initiative of its kind in South Asia and SACEP is confident it will lead to further commitment in the region, and closer engagement among neighbours to effectively address wildlife trade problems," said Dr Boaz.