WWF Greater Mekong statement on WJC report, “Rapid assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on wildlife trafficking” | WWF
WWF Greater Mekong statement on WJC report, “Rapid assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on wildlife trafficking”

Posted on 30 April 2020

The Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) has released a study that shows that, while travel restrictions and border closures due to COVID-19 have reduced the volume of wildlife contraband currently being trafficked, we need to be ready for the resumption of trafficking once restrictions are lifted.
WWF Greater Mekong commends the Wildlife Justice Commission (WJC) for a timely report on the impacts of travel restrictions and border closures due to COVID-19 on wildlife trafficking in the Mekong region. 

WJC investigations found a temporary reduction in the volume of wildlife contraband being trafficked due to travel and transport restrictions, reduced numbers of travelers, and border closures. However, the report warns that high-level criminal networks will resume their operations to previous levels once restrictions are lifted. 

The report notes that traffickers are stockpiling elephant ivory and pangolin scales in Lao PDR, Cambodia and Vietnam. It also highlights the adaptability of traffickers, who have switched to moving contraband to the region by sea and within the region by road to circumvent the restrictions on air travel. 

“This report shows that increased border control does deter traffickers, but that this high level of vigilance must be maintained or these resourceful criminal syndicates will simply resume their activities,” said K. Yoganand, Regional Lead for Wildlife and Wildlife Crime, WWF-Greater Mekong. “We urge the Greater Mekong countries to scale-up intelligence-led law enforcement, including placing extra resources on road border crossings and sea ports.”

WWF currently implements a project with US Government funding to advance the capacity of Provincial Wildlife Enforcement Networks (P-WEN) in the Golden Triangle provinces of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos, to counter wildlife trafficking. The project has facilitated the signing of three bilateral agreements between P-WENs to work together on patrolling locations of high trafficking risk, conducting joint enforcement actions, and sharing intelligence. 

“This report comes at a critical time. As COVID-19 has shown, the global trafficking in wildlife not only threatens the species trafficked but presents a massive health and economic risk to us all. Ending this trafficking is essential if we are to avoid the next pandemic, and we will work with our partners in the P-WENs to do our part,” said Jedsada Taweekan, Regional Illegal Wildlife Trade Program Manager,  WWF-Greater Mekong.

WWF stands ready to support national wildlife law enforcement agencies to ensure that wildlife criminals cannot go back to business as usual in a post COVID-19 world.

Read the report.
Read the WJC media relese.
Pangolins are the most poached and trafficked species on our planet. In some parts of Asia their scales are believed to have an array of health benefits, despite the fact they consist of keratin - the very same substance as our own fingernails. When threatened, a pangolin’s defence mechanism is to curl up into a ball. This has made them easy targets for poachers.
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