‘Illegal trade of endemic wild species needs urgent action’


A recent report revealed that a number of native species of birds and primates that are only found in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea were recovered in India.

A total of 13 wild species of birds and four species of monkeys, believed to be smuggled from these Southeast Asian countries and were shipped through Myanmar, were seized in a random check by Khawzawl police. The seizure that took place in March 2023 happened in an area near the India-Myanmar border.

According to TRAFFIC, some of the rare species that were being trafficked include the Mindanao Tarictic Hornbill Penelopides affinis, Southern Philippine Rufous Hornbill Buceros mindanensis, Mindanao Writhed Hornbill Rhabdotorrhinus leucocephalus, and Flame Bowerbirds Sericulus ardens.

The three hornbills species live only in lowland dipterocarp forest habitats and are endemic to the Philippines, and the colorful bowerbird is only found in the forests of Papua province in Indonesia and neighboring Papua New Guinea.

“Poached species from the Philippines and Indonesia going through Myanmar and out of the Southeast Asian (SEA) region is a strong indication of the transboundary nature of wildlife crime and a strong collaborative action among the Asean Member States is truly needed to address this serious concern,” said Dr. Theresa Mundita Lim, executive director of the Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB).

Previous studies on trade dynamics and wildlife poaching have shown that these species, along with dozens of others, such as snakes, lizards, turtles, songbirds, parrots, and pangolins, are among the highly trafficked animals from SEA. The region serves as a consumer, source, and a trans-shipment point. Much of the wildlife trading is also being done online and the trafficking operations are getting more and more sophisticated.

“Illegal trafficking and trade of wildlife and wildlife products have gone online. These digital transactions are hard to trace—exacerbating the already serious problem faced by the region,” said Lim.

“To address this issue, we can also maximize the use of online tools such as social media. By reporting accounts that engage in such illegal activity, everyone can contribute to the fight against IWT (illegal wildlife trade),” she added.

“I am appalled because these bird species are rare and hard to find even in their native habitats, and despite this, poachers still find a way to capture these elusive bird species in the wild. It is very alarming that there seems to be a growing market for rare and endemic wildlife species. It seems that we have not learned our lesson from the pandemic—that disturbing nature can trigger the emergence of previously unknown diseases,” Lim stressed.

The ACB, together with the Asean member-states (AMS), adopts a three-way approach to prevent poaching of wildlife from its source—protected areas (PA).

These involve supporting the AMS in strengthening their law enforcement capacities through training initiatives and provision of state of the art equipment to improve PA protection systems; promoting sustainable livelihood and community-based enterprise; and awareness raising on the value of conserving the region’s wildlife.

Providing more sustainable economic opportunities for the communities living in the buffer zones of protected areas discourages them from engaging in illegal and unsustainable activities.

Some regional programs and projects supporting the protection and conservation of wildlife include the Asean Heritage Parks Programme, the EU-supported Biodiversity Conservation and Management of Protected Areas in the Asean, and the Small Grants Programme supported by the German Development Bank or KfW. All these regional efforts are in accordance with the Chiang Mai Statement of ASEAN Ministers Responsible for CITES and Wildlife Enforcement on Illegal Wildlife Trade.