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Press Releases

Lao Prime Minister’s Order Gives New Hope for Wildlife

 

Vientiane, Laos, 31 May 2018 -- The new Order by Laos’ Prime Minister on the management and inspection of prohibited wild fauna and flora is a significant step forward in the fight against illegal wildlife trade, tiger and bear farms, poaching and transnational trade in endangered species, WWF said today. If it is strictly enforced, the Order could help Laos become a regional leader on combatting this multi-billion dollar trade that threatens the extinction of species like tigers, elephants, pangolin and bears. 

 

Prime Minister’s Order No. 05 was issued on May 8th, 2018 and directs Ministers, Heads of Ministry-Equivalent Organisations, the Vientiane Capital Governor and Provincial Governors across the Lao PDR to take strict action on wildlife law enforcement, compliance with national laws on the management and inspection of wildlife trade, and commitments to international laws.

 

"WWF-Laos applauds this move by the Lao Government to seriously address the illegal wildlife trade that threatens some of the world’s most iconic endangered species such as tigers, elephants, bears and pangolin,” said Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director. "This is a great moment for the Lao PDR to show regional leadership in the fight against illegal international wildlife crime and also to keep Lao wildlife safe. If it is strictly enforced, this could mark a turning point for wildlife conservation and WWF stands ready to provide technical assistance to the Government of the Lao PDR."  

 

Specifically, the order instructs authorities to stop the hunting of all wild animals and the import, transit, export and trade of all wildlife body parts. It stops the establishment of wildlife farms and recommends turning existing farms into safari or zoos for conservation, tourism or scientific purposes. 

 

In addition, the order instructs the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry to work with other Ministries to register wildlife and wildlife products owned by individuals and organizations. Ivory, bones and rhino horns, fake or real, should be inspected, seized and destroyed. Hunting weapons used in poaching should be collected and destroyed. 

 

The order further instructs officials to “strictly inspect and patrol along vulnerable areas, points of arrival and departure, special economic zones and other areas” Violators found trading or transporting prohibited wildlife are to be investigated and prosecuted. In addition, the Order requires agencies to crack down on the import of wildlife at international checkpoints and borders.

 

Ministries are to proceed with the inspection, listing and stopping all business entities trading in wildlife parts “including bones, skins, horns, ivory, rhino horns, gallbladders, teeth, claws and other parts, and products and souvenirs that are made from animal parts at markets, hotels, special economic zones, tourist sites, airports, international checkpoints and other locations.” 

 

WWF currently supports an anti-wildlife crime programme in the Greater Mekong Region, including in the Lao PDR, where wildlife poaching and illegal wildlife trade markets have caused serious declines in endangered species populations. The overall objective of this programme is to effectively reduce demand for illegal wildlife products, as well as to improve ranger capacity and support wildlife law enforcement activities and capacity building for the Department of Forest Inspection and its provincial offices. 

 

“Strict enforcement of this Order will have an incredibly positive impact on the wildlife of Laos and beyond, and make a bold statement that the Lao PDR is taking the threat of illegal wildlife trade seriously,” added Mr. Bouasavanh. “WWF-Laos stands ready to support our Government to make it happen.”

 
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For more information, please contact:

Bounpone Sookmexay, WWF-Laos Communication Officer,

bounpone.sookmexay@wwfgreatermekong.org
 

About WWF-Laos:

WWF-Laos is the local office of the WWF International Network, the world’s largest and most experienced independent conservation organisation. It has more than 5 million supporters and offices active in over 100 countries.
 
Our mission is to support in reducing the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature. To do this, WWF works with a broad spectrum of partners including governments, industry, and local communities to find solutions to the challenges that face our natural world.
 
Our Laos programme officially began in 1997 with the head quarter office established in 2001 and since then our work has focused on research, advocacy and building partnerships aimed at protecting Laos’ most precious habitats and species, building local and national capacity to conserve them, and improving the livelihoods of the communities who depend on them most. You can read more about WWF-Laos' diverse work here.

 
	© Lee Poston / WWF-Greater Mekong
Illegal Wildlife Trade
© Lee Poston / WWF-Greater Mekong
 
	© Michel Gunther / WWF
Illegal Wildlife Trade
© Michel Gunther / WWF
 
	© WWF / CARLOS DREWS
Illegal Wildlife Trade
© WWF / CARLOS DREWS

New Wildlife Order_PM-O5_Original Lao Version

New Wildlife Order_PM-O5_Unofficial Eng Translation

Snaring crisis devastating Asia’s wildlife, jeopardizing decades of tiger conservation efforts

29 July 2017 – On Global Tiger Day today, WWF is urging tiger-range governments to strengthen anti-poaching efforts and crack down on a severe wildlife snaring crisis that is threatening wildlife across Asia, especially the world’s remaining wild tigers, which number only around 3,900.
 
Easy to make from widely available material such as bicycle cable wires and quick to set up, wire snares are deadly traps that are fast becoming the plague of Asia’s forests. Driven by the growing illegal wildlife trade, which is now reaching an estimated US$20 billion annually poachers are increasingly using snares to trap wild tigers, elephants, leopards and other animals that are in high demand in the black market.  
 
“Snares are dangerous, insidious and quickly becoming a major contributor to the wave of extinction that is spreading throughout Southeast Asia – and tigers are being swept up in this crisis. All efforts to recover wild tigers are now imperiled by snaring on a massive scale. We cannot over emphasize the need for strong government commitment and investment in rangers who are on the frontline of conservation, clearing snares and apprehending those who set them,” said Mike Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive.
 
In the rare occasion that a wild tiger is able to escape a snare, it suffers debilitating injuries that prevent it from hunting, eventually causing it to die of starvation or infection. In addition, snares maim or kill any animal that activates them thus dealing a double blow to wild tigers, by trapping the prey base they need to survive and reproduce.
 
“It’s impossible to know how many snares are being set up every day, and threatening wildlife in these critical habitats. Hundreds of thousands of deadly snares are removed by rangers from Asia’s protected areas annually, but this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Rohit Singh, wildlife law enforcement expert at WWF.
 
Within the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the only place on Earth where wild tigers, orangutans, elephants and rhinos are found in the same habitat, snare traps are estimated to have doubled between 2006 and 2014. 
 
Yet, many of such critical habitats lack adequate resources for protection. In nearby Rimbang Baling, one of several protected areas in Sumatra, there are only two full-time government rangers out of a total of 26 mostly community-based rangers. Together, they patrol over 1,400 square kilometres, an area equivalent to nearly twice the size of New York City.
 
“Removing these silent traps is not enough. Rangers on the ground must be supported by greater resources and strong legislation to take action against illegal poachers with snares,” added Singh. “In addition, local communities must also be recognized and empowered as stakeholders in conservation. Protecting biodiversity is in the interest of both wildlife and people and communities can play a critical role in safeguarding vital ecosystems.”
 
In the Gunung Leuser National Park, which makes up just about a third of the entire World Heritage site in Sumatra, ecosystem services are valued at over US$ 600 million per year, while the park stores over 1.6 billion tons of carbon and provides water to four million people. Local communities rely heavily on these critical resources to survive, making it an even stronger imperative to halt the snaring crisis, and help safeguard the livelihoods of local communities.
 
As snares tighten their grip across Asia, conservation organizations across the continent are calling for urgent action. For example, in Cambodia, conservation groups led by Wildlife Alliance are launching an awareness movement to educate the public on avoiding the consumption of wild meat, which further fuels the snaring crisis.
 
In 2010, tiger range governments committed to the most ambitious conservation goal set for a single species – TX2, or the global goal to double wild tigers by 2022. Since 2016, the long trend of decline in global wild tiger numbers has halted for now and may even begin to rise, signaling a beacon of hope for global tiger conservation. Without urgent efforts to strengthen anti-poaching and reinforce investments in rangers, the poaching crisis will turn the trend back towards decline.

WWF and Partners Celebrate Six Years of Successful Forest and Wildlife Conservation in Central Annamites of Laos and Vietnam

 

Hue City, Vietnam, April 20, 2017 -- A ground-breaking partnership has resulted in the protection of more than 240,000 hectares of forests in the Central Annamite Mountains joining Laos and Vietnam, the discovery of new wildlife species – including the re-discovery of the saola -- and the creation of a world class forest guard system, WWF said today in celebrating the conclusion of the six year programme. 

 

The Carbon Sinks and Biodiversity Partnership (CarBi) is the largest and most ambitious transboundary programme in the history of WWF’s involvement in the Greater Mekong region. Supported by KFW, CarBi is a partnership with the Governments of Vietnam and Laos, development partners and other donors, local governments and local communities. Its goal is to halt deforestation through forest protection and sustainable use of forest resources, while preserving the unique species diversity of the Central Annamites, one of the world’s most biologically diverse ecosystems. 

 

The partnership’s name comes from the central idea that avoiding deforestation and restoring degraded forests is essential to the preservation of biodiversity and the ability of forests to store carbon. Releasing carbon dioxide through deforestation is a major cause of climate change. 

 

“Over the past six years, the Governments of Vietnam and Laos have worked with local communities in the Central Annamites to do something unprecedented -- create a world class protected area system with highly trained forest guards, thousands of hectares of restored forest and the discovery and protection of some of the Planet’s most endangered species,” said Fanie Bekker, Transboundary Director, CarBi. 

 

The numerous successes of the CarBi Partnership include an extensive camera trapping monitoring programme, in partnership with the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, that has conducted more than 67,000 trap nights in the past six years. Highlights include the rediscovery of the Saola in Vietnam – one of the world’s rarest large mammals -- by a CarBi supported camera trap survey in 2013 after it had not been recorded for 15 years. Biodiversity surveys have revealed a new snake species and improved our understanding of the presence of species such as the Asiatic black bear and Annamite Striped Rabbit.

 

The CarBi Forest Guard system has developed a robust track record of world class patrolling and data collection, and more than 100,000 snares have been removed and 1,800 logging camps destroyed. In addition, the management effectiveness of protected areas has improved on average by more than 90%, and the development of a conservation economy has resulted in 16,300 beneficiaries participating in activities, and 170,000 work days generating around $1.8 million USD in income. This has measurably reduced the pressure on forest resources by providing sustainable alternatives to logging, poaching and other destructive activities. 

 

“Through working with CarBi, capacity of rangers and the nature reserve’s officials have been grown significantly, especially skills in protected area management and field research,” said Mr. Nguyen Dai Anh Tuan, Forest Protection Department Director of Thua Thien Hue in Vietnam, and Director of the province’s CarBi Project Management Unit. “The establishment and maintenance of the forest guard model, whose members are mostly from ethnic minority groups living around the buffer zone, has proved that biodiversity conservation is part of the local community. This model has significantly improved the awareness of the local communities in protecting forest resources and helped them understand their important connection with natural ecosystems surrounding them.”

 

In partnership with provincial and national counterparts, CarBi promoted improved forest management and control of illegal wildlife and timber trade in bordering provinces to ensure the connectivity of Laos and Vietnam green corridors As a result, the Laos Government tightened the control of logging and introduced a moratorium on the export of timber from natural forests, resulting in an 84 percent drop in exports of round wood from Lao PDR to Vietnam  in the first six months of 2016.

 

“CarBi has made significant contributions to forest protection and cutting edge biodiversity conservation. A number of successful activities have been carried out, including capacity building and awareness raising, extensive law enforcement, biodiversity monitoring, forest restoration, supporting payment for environmental services, as well as engaging local people in biodiversity conservation, resulting in enhanced and diversified livelihoods. CarBi has created some fresh motivation for biodiversity conservation activities in Quang Nam Province,” said Phan Tuan, head of Vietnam’s Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, and Director of the province’s CarBi’s Project Management Unit.
 

“After 6 years, the CarBi Project has proven its capacity and commitment through outstanding achievements which have regional and global impacts,” said Christian Haas, Director, KFW Office, Hanoi. “From bringing two countries (Laos and Vietnam) together at the borders, to controlling illegal timber and wildlife trade, to the world-rocking rediscovery of saola, to generating thousands of day works for local people, to improving capacity of hundreds of government authorities and local people, the CarBi Project has put a smile on our faces when seeing its outcomes."
 

"CarBi has provided us with a clear window into the unique biodiversity treasures of Xe Sap, and also supported the Laos government to enhance its management effectiveness significantly. The piloting of the Biodiversity Conservation Agreements with selected communities, has also paved the way for upscaling in other areas of Laos,” said Keophaylin Ngonephetsy, Government Project Coordinator, Department of Agriculture and Forestry, Xekong Province.

 

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Note to Editors: For photos and more detailed information about CarBi, including a book about the entire partnership, go to: http://bit.ly/2oIVnw4

For More Information: Lee Poston, WWF Greater Mekong, lee.poston@wwfgreatermekong.org, +66 (0)9 188 322 90, or Ngan Nguyen Thi Phuong, WWF-Vietnam, ngan.nguyenphuong@wwfgreatermekong.org, +84 986 117 600

 

Lao PDR and Vietnam to Cooperate on Combating Illegal Timber and Wildlife Trade Across Borders

Cracking down on illegal production and trading in forest products, as well as combatting illegal wildlife trade are to receive a major boost through a new trans border cooperative agreement between Lao PDR and Vietnam. The agreement is welcome news in advance of a major international conference on illegal wildlife trade to take place in Hanoi, Vietnam November 17-18.

A bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office (PAFO), Attapeu Province, Lao PDR, and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), Kon Tum Province Vietnam, was signed earlier this month (19 Oct. 2016) by Mr. Sounthone Leuammalaysy, Deputy Director of Attapeu PAFO, and Mr. Nguyen Kim Phuong, Deputy Director of Kon Tum DARD, Kon Tum Province Vietnam.

The main objective of the agreement is to enhance and streamline cooperation in forest management and protection starting in 2017, in order to prevent unauthorized harvesting, poaching, trading and transporting of timber, forest products and wildlife in the border provinces of Kon Tum in Vietnam and Attapeu in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

The MoU further stipulates that the two parties shall:
  1. Cooperate closely on information exchange, including all knowledge and experiences related to controlling and preventing all illegal timber and wildlife activity in the border areas of these two provinces. Each party also agreed to intensify strict monitoring of imports and exports of timber and other forest products, as well as wildlife, along the borders in both provinces.
  2. Conduct a cooperative awareness-raising campaign to educate the public on the importance of protecting forest resources and enhancing biodiversity conservation.
  3. Enhance cooperation between forest protection departments and other local departments (inspectors, border military personnel and police forces, forest reserves and protection units and customs officers) in forest management and protection.
  4. Share all information pertaining to any detected cases of illegal activity in concerned provinces on either sides of the border and cooperate on handling these cases.
  5. Cooperate on several other forestry and agriculture activities
  6. Organize an annual meeting to exchange, to update all concerned parties on on-going forest management and protection activities, including yearly work plans. The first meeting will be held in late 2017 in Attapeu Province Lao PDR.
“This agreement is a fundamental step to secure the Lao and Vietnam borders from illegal timber and wildlife trade.  Collaboration within such a framework, aided by rigorous implementation, sharing and monitoring, will help both countries make huge strides in protecting their forests, and in turn their people” said Mr. Khamseng Homdouangxay, Conservation Programme Coordinator, WWF-Laos.

In August 30-31th 2016, a high-level delegation from the Lao PDR traveled to Danang, Vietnam, to lay the groundwork for the agreement.  The Lao delegation was led by Mr. Khamphout Phandanouvong, Director General of Department of Forest Inspection (DoFI) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), and included PAFO directors for Khammouan and Attapeu provinces and Provincial Forest Inspection Division directors from six central and southern Lao provinces. Vietnam counterparts at the Danang meeting were led by Mr. Vu Trong Kim -Deputy General Director of the Forest Protection Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and included representatives from forest protection agencies from border provinces. Representative of WWF Vietnam and Laos also attended this important event.
 
During the meeting in Danang, bilateral cooperation was reviewed by both parties, who mutually acknowledged commitments to international treaties and conventions both governments have ratified, notably the implementation of timber traceability systems, fostering scientific research and knowledge sharing.
 
Earlier this year, Lao PDR Prime Minster’s Order N.15 was issued, with a clear direction on strictly banning all illegal timber activity in Lao PDR. This reaffirmed the will of the Lao government to crackdown on illegal timber trade and was welcomed by authorities in Vietnam, who reiterated their commitment on collaborating with Lao authorities towards successful implementation of this order.
 
Under the EU funded Forest Law Enforcement Governance & Trade/Voluntary Partnership Agreement Project (FLEGT-VPA), WWF Laos and Vietnam have been providing technical and financial support the Department Of Forest Inspection in Laos (DOFI) and the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNForest) towards the development of the legal framework for timber, and to ensure the effectiveness of trans-boundary cooperation. 

“Illegal wildlife and timber trade are complex issues requiring collaborative agreements across borders,” added Mr. Nguyen Anh Quoc, Central Annamites Landscape Manager, WWF-Vietnam. “We expect that this model of cooperation will be replicated and expanded in the near future to a number of other concerned border provinces in Lao PDR and Vietnam.”

Irrawaddy dolphins functionally extinct in Laos: WWF

Only Three Dolphins Left in Southern Laos as WWF calls for immediate ban on all gill nets near dolphin pools
Bangkok -- The population of critically endangered Mekong River Dolphins (also known as Irrawaddy Dolphins) in the Cheuteal trans-boundary pool between southern Laos and northern Cambodia has shrunk by 50% this year alone and the population is functionally extinct in Laos, WWF said today.

WWF survey teams from Laos and Cambodia conducted a dolphin abundance survey and confirmed the current number and breeding status of the dolphins in the transboundary pool. Down to just three individuals – from six just earlier this year – there is now little hope for a reversal of the situation, as the small population is no longer viable.  “Functional extinction” results when there are too few potential breeding pairs available to ensure the survival of the population. 

The use of gill nets (especially unmanned gill nets) is thought to be one of the main reasons for the demise of the dolphins. Gill nets are vertical panels of netting set in a straight line across a river to catch fish. Being large aquatic mammals, Mekong River dolphins – as well as other endangered aquatic species-- are often caught in gill nets, and drown as a consequence.

The use of gill nets in the Mekong River is prohibited in Cambodia – where there are an estimated 80 dolphins – but not in Laos. Only the actual deep pool off Hangsadam Village, where the dolphins are, is protected. Gill nets are, however, used directly outside of the pool where the dolphins often swim and risk being trapped. 

WWF calls for an immediate ban on all gill nets for a two kilometers radius around the Cheuteal Pool (4 km in the rainy season) and increased enforcement against violators. WWF also calls for increased enforcement of gillnet bans in other Mekong River dolphin pools to protect the remaining dolphin populations.
 
“The alarming decline of Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins in Laos that we have witnessed this year is tragic.  At this stage, we fear that in a year or two, there may be no more dolphins in Laos,” said Teak Seng, WWF Conservation Director for the Greater Mekong.
 
“The loss of this iconic species for Laos is even more tragic given that it was entirely preventable through strict enforcement against gill net fishing.”
 
The Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong River have long been a favorite attraction among travelers and tourists in southern Laos.  Their feared disappearance from Lao waters may cause a hard blow to eco-tourism in the area.

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found in some coastal areas in Asia but there are only three freshwater subpopulations, in the Ayeyarwady River in Myanmar, the Mahakam River in Indonesia, and the Mekong River in Cambodia and the Lao PDR. 

WWF Commends Lao PDR’s Decision to Dismantle Tiger Farms


The Government of Laos’ intention to phase out its tiger farms -- announced at the UN CITES 17th Conference of Parties last week in Johannesburg, South Africa -- is a major step against fighting the illegal wildlife trade, WWF said today. 
 
The announcement comes after the Lao PDR received criticism from CITES about the lack of action to date to eradicate illegal wildlife trade in the country. Amongst its recommendations, the latest CITES report highlights critical gaps in legislative coverage, a lack of law enforcement effort and a need to work with neighbouring countries to address transboundary trafficking of species.
 
CITES decision 14.69 imposes to countries signatory to the convention that tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives. In announcing the decision to phase out tiger farms, Official representatives of the Lao delegation reportedly said: “We support the retention of Decision 14.69 as a valid decision and urge all Parties to implement it as a matter of urgency, as we intend to do so”.  
 
"WWF-Laos welcomes the move by the Lao Government to close its tiger farms. It is high time that the illegal trafficking of wildlife is dealt with for good.  The task of closing tiger farms in Laos will require cooperation from multiple agencies and WWF-Laos stands ready to provide technical assistance to tackle this task head-on, and is willing to start working with the Lao Government on a detailed phase-out plan of all illegal tiger farms in the  country” said Somphone Bouasavanh, WWF-Laos Country Director." This is a great moment for Laos to show regional leadership in the fight against illegal wildlife crime, and that this commitment will translate into a model that can be followed by other countries to close down their tiger farms."

WWF currently supports an anti-wildlife crime programme in the Greater Mekong Region, including in the Lao PDR, where illegal wildlife trade markets have recently made international news. The overall objective of this programme is to effectively reduce demand for illegal wildlife products as well as to improve ranger training and to develop new technologies for reporting illegal wildlife trade.
 
“Laos’ announcement that it will phase out its tiger farms is a welcome first step that needs to be followed with decisive action," said Heather Sohl, WWF-UK’s chief advisor on wildlife, during the CITES convention last week.

There are an estimated 700 tigers bred in three facilities in Laos. Phasing out their operations will need effective cooperation between all relevant Government agencies and their development partners. A major concern will be what to do with the tigers in those farms to ensure that they are well cared for in accredited facilities and do not end up in the illegal wildlife trade chain. 

This also represents an opportunity for Laos to investigate the possibility of a tiger reintroduction programme in selected National Biodiversity Conservation Areas, “rewilding” the forests of Laos.­