Brunei at the forefront of wildlife protection

|      James Kon      |

A SENIOR official from the US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has hailed Brunei Darussalam’s forest and wildlife conservation efforts, expressing hope that the country will continue to focus on combating wildlife trafficking.

The US Deputy Assistant Secretary, Daniel L Foote was speaking to the regional media in a telephonic press briefing held in conjunction with the World Wildlife Day yesterday.

Lauding Brunei’s “wonderfully positive progress” in the area of wildlife protection, the official stressed the need to further increase coordination, communication and information as well as intelligence sharing between neighbours in the region, noting that wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime which needs to be combated with the cooperation of all the Asean member countries. “This will strengthen global enforcement efforts and reduce demand for illegal wildlife products,” he added.

“Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise that not only raises a critical conservation concern but also represents a serious threat to the security and economic stability of the countries involved. World Wildlife Day presents an opportunity to raise public awareness on the impacts of wildlife trafficking on the natural environment and the people who share it as well as to highlight the key role which the US is playing to combat this illegal activity,” Foote said in the briefing.

“Wildlife trafficking is a transnational crime that has devastating impacts on the ecosystem and the society. It pushes species to the brink of extinction, restricts economic development, threatens security, provides funding and strength to violent criminals to undermine the rule of law.”

Unfortunately, he added, “wildlife-related crimes are often related to conservation issues. It is in fact a serious crime through which transitional syndicates derive substantial profits to fund their illicit activities, fuelling corruption and instability”.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary, Daniel L Foote of Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
The Deputy Assistant Secretary, Daniel L Foote of Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs

Illegal wildlife products, he said, “are among the top five most lucrative illegal goods, with this form of trade, it is estimated to have a worth of over 10 billion a year. Asia is no stranger to this problem, with illicit ivory, pangolin scales and other wildlife products transiting the ports and across border”.

Since 2014, the US has been the leader in the global combat against wildlife trafficking. Overall, the national efforts have three main pillars, namely strengthening law enforcement, reducing demand and expanding international cooperation, Foote said.

The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the State Department “is using the experience we have developed working with international law enforcement and criminal justice community over the past 40 years in combating different forms of crimes, particularly narcotics trafficking, to counter wildlife trafficking. Our main efforts include strengthening legislative framework with our partner nations, enhancing investigative and law enforcement functions, building prosecution and judiciary capacity and strengthening cross border cooperation”, the US official added.

“In Southeast Asia, we provide legal training, investigative and prosecution capacity as well as build regional cooperation to go after wildlife traffickers. No country can be effective in tackling this issue on its own,” Foote said.