Thursday, September 28, 2006

UN University launches system to combat Asia's illegal wildlife trade

Source: Kyodo News
Date: 21 September 2006

TOKYO, Sept. 21 Kyodo - The United Nations University is developing an information system aimed at collecting reports on poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Asia. Under the scheme the university will gather information through an international network, evaluate it and offer it to law enforcement-related authorities in various countries.

The Internet-based geographic information system application will aid the relevant parties in identifying and monitoring the illicit trade routes.

The Asia Conservation Alliance Task Force, established by groups centering on the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, will cooperate with the university in collecting the data. Forty-two organizations in 13 countries, including China, India and Japan, will take part in the task force.

The system's database will comprise reports on illegal wildlife trade by the university as well as studies conducted by governments and conservation organizations of various nations.

In addition to offering the information to relevant governmental and conservation organizations via the Internet and in the form of news letters, the university will also provide the data to Interpol, the secretariat of the Washington Convention and other international agencies. The system will use animated graphics to illustrate areas of wildlife poaching, trade routes and the places where the illegal goods are found.

The university plans to launch the system on a trial basis within this year at the earliest, researcher Remi Chandran said.

According to the secretariat of the Washington Convention, which controls commercial transactions of endangered wildlife, Asia is a hot spot for illicit trade.

Tiger poaching for fur and animal parts used in herbal medicine is reported to have reduced their population to around 5,000. Tibetan antelopes in China are reportedly facing extinction due to a spike in poaching and illegal exports of the animal's fine down used to make high-priced shahtoosh shawls.

Large amounts of African elephant ivory tusk have reportedly been shipped to China in recent years, while Japan is described as the biggest market for pet reptiles illegally caught in Southeast Asian countries.

John Sellar of the secretariat said caviar and Tibetan antelopes are sold at extremely high prices, with the most expensive caviar going for 1,800 euro (about 270,000 yen) per 250 grams and a shatoosh shawl costing $20,000 (about 2.34 million yen). He also said that illicit wildlife trade has grown and become more international.

He said he would be pleased if the university's system could contribute to the enhancement of citizens' awareness and to the promotion of international cooperation indispensable for combating illegal trade. Section=News_Headlines&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm& CONTENTID=2841

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