Worldwide illegal trafficking in wildlife is growing and may be as high as $20 billion annually, according to a 2009 report by the United States Congress. One of the regions threatened by this illicit trade is Southeast Asia, home to many species of plants and animals.
Endangered species such as the pangolin, an ant-eating mammal native to Southeast Asia and Africa, continue to be trafficked across international borders despite their protected status.
The United States is working with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' Wildlife Enforcement Network, or ASEAN-WEN, to stop the organized poaching of the region's flora and fauna. ASEAN-WEN is part of the larger ASEAN-US Enhanced Partnership promoting cooperation between the United States and Southeast Asia.
As part of that effort, the United States provided support for a workshop on protecting ASEAN wildlife, held March 3-4 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The workshop was conducted by the ASEAN's Wildlife Enforcement Network and the Federal Courts of Malaysia. Among the participants was Robert S. Anderson, Senior Trial Attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and an expert on environmental crimes.
"The workshop represents one of many cooperative programs that the U.S. and Malaysia are undertaking in our joint regional effort to combat illegal trade," said U.S. Charge d'affaires Robert Rapson.
Charge d'affaires Rapson noted that the United States is one of the top 3 destinations in the world for illegally trafficked wildlife products. Recently, the U.S. has moved to strengthen its legal framework to prevent illegal wildlife trade. Recent amendments to the Lacey Act make it unlawful to import, export, transport, sell, or purchase any plant taken or traded in violation of the laws of a U.S. state, as well as most foreign laws. The amended act will be phased in beginning April 1, 2009.
"The U.S.," said Mr. Rapson, "recognizes that combating wildlife trafficking is not the purview of any one country, but requires collective effort by all countries." The U.S. commends the government of Malaysia and ASEAN for their efforts and is committed to working with its international partners to preserve Southeast Asia's biodiversity.