Liz Bennett, Michael Sullivan
Wildlife trade discussion.
Mark Lloyd, Michael Sullivan
Wildlife trade discussion.
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
9 Sep 2003
- 13.74067 100.52538
- Sennheiser MKH 30
- Sennheiser MKH 40
Decoded MS stereo
Show: Thailand Wildlife Trade
Log of DAT #4, ILEA Interviews
Recorded in MS
Engineer: Charles Thompson
Date: September 9, 2003
1:08 Chuck saying: today's date is Tuesday, September 9 (even though DAT is labeled as Sept 8)
1:44 Ambi starts: g car engines, walkie talkie sounds, very dense sounding bird and insect sounds in background.
Entrance into ILEA from street, inside to office areas, into break room.
2:49 beginning of ambi: ok engine idling quietly, birds, voices.
3:44 trying ambi again: g cars passing by quietly, voice over speaker in background, sound of ppl working inside building, walls. ok - channel disappears
4:55 pick up ambi again now with both channels: voices echoing on walls inside, engines, birds, footsteps in hallway, sound of objects on floor. g
6:18 elevator ambi g
6:36 elevator opening FX g voices, open hall/room ambi, footsteps squeaking, glasses/plates clinking, water, dish washing ambi, Thai voices g
8:10 stop down mark
8:30 vg lots of feet squeaking, footsteps coming off elevator and coming into ILEA, adjusting, shuffling, English voices in background, coughing.
9:54 coffee break room ambi: Thai conversation, laughter, objects being moved around, esply silverware, plates, 10:39 chair scooting back FX, footsteps. vg esply 11:19 until 11:51
11:58 same ambi, different location. vg
15:23 ambi loses voices as they quiet down, exit room.
15:38 ambi over.
17:00 MS: When I think of the wldlf trade, I think of Africa. I suspect most ppl do. I don't think about Asia. How big is the prob here, and why should we care?
LB: the prob here is enormous. 1 of the reasons that we hear more about the Africa trade is partly, certainly w/in EU it's closer to home. But also bc w/in AF it effects species like great apes, gorillas, chimps, is very evocative. 1 other reason: the wave of hunting, trade, trade-related extinctions and knocking wldlf pops down hit Asia a long time b4 it hit AF. Now it means the trade partic in parts of indo-china is small species, not so evocative bc the big ones have gone. If you go into a market in Nern Laos, what you see in the market is bats, frogs, small passerine [sp] birds. bc they're basically all that's left and the big things have gone.
MS: they've been hunted out.
LB: That's right.
MS: Which would suggest that the prob here is far greater than in AF.
LB: It is greater, far more extreme, been going on for a lot longer, which means that a lot of the species have already been knocked way back down. And so if you take Viet for ex, Viet w/in the last 50 yrs, 12 species of lrg anmls have either gone extinct or on the verge bc of hunting and wldlf trade. Incls species that are so rare now that most ppl haven't even heard of them like the cupre. It includes things like the elds [sp] deer, species such as the batagere [sp] turtle. They've basically all become extinct w/in the last 50 yrs bc of hunting and wldlf trade. And other countries are following suite, partic indo-china first, but the wave of wldlf trade is pushing way down into malay, indo, thru the whole region. And it's the most enormous prob and it's the single greatest threat to wldlf in this part of the world w/out any doubt. We're clearly seeing fairly major local extinctions now as a result of wldlf trade w/in Asia.
MS: so the prob is wldlf trade - these are poachers and these are ppl trying to make money instead of ppl who have trad.ly hunted for meat, subsistence, hunters.
LB: yes, ppl have hunted for subsistence if you look at the fossil record w/in this part of the world for at least 40,000yrs. So for species that are still alive today, clearly hunting in the past must have been sustainable. You still have a lot of ppl who depend on wldlf in the area or at least use the wldlf in the area for subsistence, that's still going on. But on top of that, partly bc of modern meds there's a lot more of them, partly bc of very high pops throughout Asia, the area of forest has decreased very dramatically. Much more so than a-x most certainly of central Africa, areas of forest here tend to be small bc of very high pressure on the land for growing rice and agri and other things such as plantations which means that the # of ppl is extremely high. If you look at the # of ppl per sq km of forest in Africa, it's about 99 ppl per sq km of forest in central AF. If you look at the same figure for tropical Asia, it's about 550 ppl per sq km w/in this part of the world of remaining forest, so pressure on the forest here is much greater. You've got your subsistence hunters, who are still there doing subsistence hunting. The prob has got more acute bc their #s have gone up and the area of forest has gone down, but the core thing on top of that is this huge commercial trade, for wild meat, trad medicines, pets, all of those are putting pressure on it, the largest bird market, for consumers with birds as pets in the world is prob indo. You've got the lrg trad med trade for wldlf meds throughout the region, coming not just from china, but throughout the entire region. There's this very strong belief in the efficacy of wldlf as a trad med. And it's not med the way that we view med in the W as a whole, it's more by eating animals, partly there's a direct med link, but more it's also you're absorbing part of the spirit of the anml. And that's really important as part of a total body health.
22:02 LB: now with Asia as a whole, and increasing free trade btwn countries, increasing prosperity, most of the world's largest and fastest growing economies are in this part of the world. and so ppl are now having the money to buy the wldlf, there's now access routes into pretty much all forests throughout the region bc it's such a devel.ing and developed part of the world, so there is nowhere where wldlf is safe and you have these enormous markets demanding pretty much every part of the animals.
22:34 MS: so consumerism is actually fueling the demand, the trade?
LB: yes it is, its fueling the demand in a huge way so that rural hunters if you have your skillful subsistence hunter, he know that if he traps/shoots an anml that he and his fam aren't immediately going to use, he knows he can find a market for it, for pretty much any part of it. parts of it for the trad med trade, for the meat trade, if he's caught it live there's a pet trade, so it's anything that's hunted in any form, parts of it can be sold.
MS: And this is also a status thing in many of these countries as well, I mean, the more affluent you become, you might not believe in the medicinal value of this partic body part for your general health but if you've got it, flaunt it, and one way to flaunt is more frequently is to buy these animals or these animal parts either in restaurants or parts of them to eat, or for display.
LB: yes it is, and the whole status thing in fact is tied in with the pet trade as well. One of the issues which is prob not enormous scale but it's certainly sig w/ some of the species involved is that it's a real status symbol to have as a pet something like an orangutan.
MS: Which would cost?
LB: I don't know actually, I don't know what it would cost. Bc it's tied in w/ status in a lot of these countries, they might not even buy it, it might be something that's come that they've set up a supply chain to go and collect for them. Or that it's a confiscated anml from the trade that they go and put into their own home.
MS: Purely a status symbol?
LB: so something like that's purely a status symbol, that's right.
MS: why do we care? What are we losing here?
LB: we're losing some of the world's most exciting and dynamic species, Asia has some of the world's most diverse wldlf and we're losing it very fast. Species such as orangutans, tigers, some of the large cattle. They're dynamic and exciting anmls. We're also losing a resource tat is of enormous cultural importance to ppl w/in the region. A lot of the cultures within Easia/SE Asia are very strongly tied in with wldlf in one way or another, in terms of not only medicinal beliefs, but cultural views of the world are very tied in with wildlife. We're losing that. For ex, the biggest festival for the iban [sp] some of the dieks [sp] in bornio [sp] is a hornbill festival. It's a huge thing - a lot of their culture is tied in with their beliefs about hornbills, so you've got those cultural links which we're losing. We're losing the resources for the truly, the few truly forest ppl left who really depend on this resource.
LB: One of the core economic prods of this region is timber and forestry. A lot of the wldlf is hugely important for forestry. They are pollinators, dispersers, they are responsible for keeping the forests diverse and healthy and alive and regenerating, bc as they transmit seeds thru the forest, as they pollinate the flowers in the forest, they are keeping the entire forest processes going and the eco systems of the forest going and if we lose that, we don't know what all the knock on effects are going to be in the forest but they're probly going to be very considerable.
MS: What would you think they would be? Why do we need the forest?
LB: The forests of SE Asia are the most diverse forests in the world. they're hugely important for providing the world's timber - a lot comes from this part of the world. providing prods such as rattans, the cane which cane furniture is made out of, which comes from forests in this part of the world. a lot of med prods come from here. Another reason that we need forests is for enviro stabilization. In this part of the world. we're in areas with very high rainfall here, very steep terrain. If we lose the forests, then the probs of enviro control: flooding, droughts, erosion, are going to become much more acute, a lot of the rice fields in this part of the world are down river from forested water catchments, and once we start to lose the forest on those hills, you get a lot of siltation [sp] coming in and just general enviro stability starts to fall apart.
MS: so you're making a direct link here btwn the poacher out in the jungle, who takes the anml from the jungle and the continued existence of that jungle?
LB: that jungle in its present form. The core reason for caring about this is for the wldlf POV itself bc these are part of everybody's heritage and we're losing it incredibly rapidly. We don't know totally what will happen to the forest when all the wldlf goes, we know some plant species will go; some plant species will remain; things that are wind pollinated, a lot of the more sort of weedy plant species will remain. We don't know quite what the long term effect is going to be on the forest as we take all of this wldlf out. One of the reasons is bc a lot of this wldlf is gone within the last 50 yrs. It's really since the 2nd world war that a lot of this stuff is going and going very fast. The long term effects on the forest are going to take a lot longer than that to find out, but by the time we find out, it may be too late to do anything about it.
MS: we're talking about a big business here, multi billion dollar business?
LB: We are, we're talking about multi billion dollar business throughout the region.
MS: and if we were to compare it to, this might be unfair to ask you, but if you were to compare it to the arms/drug trade in SE Asia, is it up there?
LB: It is up there, again in terms of looking at total figures, we don't know. It's not all been compiled, but yes it is up there, but broadly what the assumption is it would be the third one up there. You have drugs and arms and you have wldlf trade. It's a very major money spinner throughout the region, but the prob is it's not sustainable which means it's not going to last and what happens w/in any 1 area is that it's an absolute typical boom and bust trade. As an area is opened up, hunters go in, wldlf flows out, for the time being, then within fairly short time, the wldlf in that area disappears, and the trade moves on to the next area. So it's basically sweeping like a wave through the region.
MS: It's slash and burn, essentially.
LB: It is, but with slash and burn you can go back relatively quickly, but if you've taken all the wldlf out of an area, partic if it's an isolated forest area, it's not going to come back
MS: It's what we would call in Amer strip mining.
LB: yes, that's right. It's absolute strip mining
Ambi: insects ok
repeat this section under better sound conditions
LB: 57% of the world's ppl live in Asia, and if you look - that means there's huge pressure on the land bc a lot of land inevitably has had to be cleared for rice for plantations that sort or thing to support that level of population, so if you then look at the # of ppl per unit area of forest remaining, in central Africa, central and west Africa, it's about 99 ppl per sq km of forest, in E and SE Asia, per sq km of remaining forest, it's about 560 ppl. So that means there's just enormous pressure on every bit of forest.
MS: and every day there is less forest, so that figure goes up, there are more ppl.
LB: That's right, everyday there's more ppl, everyday there's less forest. So yes that figure is going up absolutely everyday.
MS: and that's a prob.
LB: yes, it's a huge prob. bc the forest is basically like a bank of, it's almost like an unguarded bank ... every single product in the forest is of value, partic the wldlf bc you can sell every bit of every anml, you've got an unguarded bank out there, bc the forest is getting smaller and smaller, it means it's getting more and more accessible, so there's no area of the forest that someone can't get to pretty quickly and easily throughout the whole region. There's a few exceptions, some of the forests in Nern Burma, Myanmar, some of these enormous forests up there are still pretty inaccessible, but that's an exception. Basically the forests here are shrinking in size, increasing in accessibility, and they're full of products which anybody can go in pretty much and take out and sell.
MS: and unlike banks which are insured, forests are not.
LB: forests are not insured, and if you're doing the bank comparison, we're eating the capitol.
MS: and if you want to take that analogy a step further, what you're trying to do now is to effectively come up with some sort of insurance for that bank.
LB: yes it is. And there's no reason why some of these species can't be hunted on a certain scale, ppl have been doing it for a very long time, but you need to be eating the interest, you don't need to be eating the capitol, and it's trying to get it back to a level where we're taking off the interest and we're not totally mining into the capitol.
MS: I live in S Asia, not SE Asia, but I suspect we have some of the same probs here that we have where I live and that is extremely long, porous, ill-patrolled if patrolled at all borders, which makes trade like this incredibly easy.
LB: yes, it does make trade easy. The very long borders, the extreme mobile nature of the pop here. Ppl have been traveling throughout the region, trading, and the initial Chinese traders have been coming down to SE trading since at least the 1300, 1400s if not well b4 that, so there's a whole trad of movement w/in the region and of trading in the region a-x borders and on boats throughout the whole region. Sot this is a very long trad. And now it's really tying into the fact that with small amounts of forest, with lrg amounts of ppl w/ sig amounts of money, that means that these trade routes are just draining all the wldlf out. And they're also flexible trade routes. So for ex the bird trade initially was coming out of Sumatra and into a lot of the rest of the region. Now bc of the lrg consuming pop for birds as pets in indo, some of the trade is starting to go back the other way. Some species which we think of as common forest species, they're running out of bc of the pet trade and so the trade is starting to go back the other way and birds such as hill miners are being traded back into indo, where they used to be a common bird but they're finished there now so they're taken them from indo-china into indo so it's a very flexible dynamic trade, and that's one of the probs bc of the traders all trade in a whole variety of prods, wldlf is one product that they trade in, out of a mass of things that they trade in, so once bears become extinct in an area, they'll trade turtles or they'll trade some other wldlf product, and when that's run out, they'll just trade something else.
[battery's gone?] ...
MS: let me ask you this then, in addition to those porous borders, you have a lot of lip service paid to the idea of protecting these species here. But in reality I suspect you have a lot of ppl in high positions here incl govt positions who make a lot of money off this trade. It's in their interest to see this trade continue, not decrease.
LB: yes, there's a lot of probs. One of them clearly is corruption in a lot of the system, in some of the countries which has a vested interest in seeing it continue. Another one is bc wldlf tends not to be seen as a priority by some of the govts in the region, the resources allocated to it are just not very high which means that you may have ppl who are incredly dedicated and very well-intentioned but given the scale of the trade, the porousness of the borders and what's going on, the staff just don't have the capacity to deal with it. so for ex you'll have protected areas where you'll have 1000 sq km of forest and maybe 2 or 3 forest guards to try and protect it. another thing with some aspects of the trade some of the more lucrative parts of the trade, for ex the birds nest industry, for the nests of the edible birds nest, per unit weight I think it's about the most valuable food in the world which is taken from eating the nests of cave dwelling swiflets, bc it's so valuable, it's tied in w/ extreme violence, gangsterism, and an unarmed fairly junior ranger has no hope of dealing with that sort of thing, he just can't do it.
MS: nor does he want to if he has a family at home.
LB: no, that's right, absolutely. And so you've got all those issues as well in some of the parts of the trade bc it's such a lrg lucrative trade and the rangers tend to be relatively junior staff, not very well paid in a lot of these countries, so a combo of not very many of them, not necessarily very well professionally trained, plus just the enormity of the prob, it's almost impossible for them to do anything about it.
MMS:so what can we do?
LB: one of the things that we can do is raise awareness about the prob and why it matters. We can really work hard to try and build up the capacity of govts to try and deal with the prob. another major component of it is edu, and showing that what ppl are doing by supporting such a trade is having such a devastating effect on wldlf pops. We ran a training course a few yrs ago in china for Chinese wldlf rangers, and we were discussing there about the tiger bone trade, and we were saying well if we sub this with aspirin or whatever would that stop you and your families from wanting to buy tiger bond [sp]. And they said no bc it's not about the Wern concept of curing ppl but what would stop me and my fam from buying tiger bones is if we knew that by doing that we were contributing to the extinction of the tiger in china, so a lot of it is an edu issue. There's a major part of it which is an enforcement issue. The laws in most of these countries are there; some of these laws have major weaknesses, but broadly the laws are there. We have a tool to work with, we just haven't got the capacity and the pol will to enforce it, so one of the things we're doing this week here is working with law enforcement officers to find out what they need in able to enforce the law more effectively and what support they need to be able to do that more effectively.
MS: if I'm able to be incredibly cynical which I will be, the person you just described on the bottom end of this thing who said if you give me a rational explanation that the tigers will be extinct if we keep on doing this then yes we would listen to that. That person is here in the forest or close to the forest and probly has an affinity for a relationship w/ the forest that the extremely newly wealthy person in the cities does not have and for them your argument would have absolutely no affect.
LB: No, you're right, and that's why you need the combo of edu and enforcement. So it's edu to some extent at the supply end of the chain, it's edu plus enforcement at the demand end of the chain and it needs both. In Sarawak in one of the states in malay, it's the biggest state in malay and Nern bornio [sp] they recently passed a law which totally bans all commercial wldlf trade and they're enforcing it very vigorously. There's 2 reasons why there was very strong pol support for that. Partly bc ppl in the town; it's a relatively small place which means you haven't got these very dissociated large cities, so some of the ppl in the towns still enjoy going out in the forest on the weekends and they have that link to it and they felt that keeping wldlf culturally and for tourism and as part of their own heritage was very important, so we have that among some senior decision makers. And the other reason we got very strong pol support for that was from ppl in rural areas who saw that their resources were being sucked out towards town markets, so pol reps from the rural areas very strongly supported having this trade ban in effect, so that was at both ends, it was at the demand end from an edu side and it was at the supply end ¿these are our resources which we need to keep in our areas and not have them all sold out down to town.¿
MS: is that the only example of a success story that you have so far?
LB: in terms of straight, very strict control of wldlf trade it's the best ex in the region, in terms of very strict enforcement protecting the things in the forest, the best examples in the region in fact are probly in India and Nepal where there's very high emphasis on enforcement and where you do have parks surrounded by lrg #s of ppl (pardon me) which still have very large anmls in and in the whole you do not get that in SE Asia.
MS: but at the same time in India and Nepal you can't count those # of parks on one hand, yes?
LB: well they're very small, there's quite a lot of them; certainly in Nepal you can count the lot of them on the fingers of one hand and they're relatively small parks, but they are very well protected parks. Protected to an extent you don't get on the whole within SE Asia.
MS: protected for altruistic reasons or protected for the tourist dollars that they bring in?
LB: I think a bit of each. Part of it is a cultural difference-w/in India you have a much stronger culture supporting the concept that wldlf matters, it's tied in with the religion within India to a much greater extent than in the rest of SE Asia. It's probly partly for tourist dollars but I think it's partly a cultural thing. There's a whole trad of wldlf as a profession in India that there is not in the rest of SE Asia.
MS: if things go on the way they're going right now, when are we going to walk into the forest and hear nothing?
LB: in parts of the region you already do that. There's part of the parks within the region where you already go in and you hear nothing. You hear insects; but you're certainly not going to hear any lrg mmls or birds. that's already the case throughout a huge amount of this region, and it's only going to get worse.
MS: those are dead forests, for all practical reasons.
LB: in terms of wldlf side and in terms of the dynamics of the forest, and the functioning of the forests, those are dead forests, and that's already the case, and I could name you half a dozen natl parks in this region which have no lrg mmls and birds left.
MS: which begs the Q why there are natl parks anymore.
LB: they have some very nice trees in them.[laughing] 44:15
Ambi: birds, insects, feet walking in leaves, some static (or wind) ok
Ambi: birds, insects, plane flying by overhead ok
Stop down mark
ML: My name is Mark Lloyd. I'm the program director of the ILEA in Bangkok, thai.
MS: up to this point correct me if I'm wrong, but you've not really been involved in this wldlf aspect of things, you deal with drugs and guns, why get involved in wldlf?
ML: we train here in transntl crime probs. About a yr ago a grant was given to 2 ngos to put tog a training course and that was WCS and the wild aid ngos [plane passing overhead ng] and they approached us to use ILEA as a venue to put on this training and actually the wldlf crimes are also transntl.
51:45 bird ambi as plane fades out [ironic] g
52:09 actually many of the wldlf type crimes are transnatl in nature so it fits in w/ our objective here @ ILEA. To train the participating countries in how to deal better w/ transnatl crimes and also devel the spirit of cooperation and fellowship that's necessary for individual countries to fight trans natl crime.
MS: The drug trade and the gun trade, I would assume, correct me if I'm wrong, are very well org-ed and probly are run to a great extent by orged crime in SE Asia, do you believe this to be true of the wldlf trade as well? Do you see any indication of that?
ML: I wouldn't be able to comment - I don't know that much about the wldlf crime prob, but I would assume so bc the better an org is, the more successful they'll be and from what I hear this is a very lucrative and successful crime prob.
MS: if it's lucrative, if it's successful, then it usually draws organized crime.
ML: of course.
ML: approx a yr ago the US govt awarded a grant to 2 ngos WILDAID and WCS to put tog a training course and we at ILEA agreed to host and manage that course and that's what's occurring here now, it's this course that's been put on a 2 week course
MS: and the purpose is?
ML: to train and inform the participating countries in this region on the probs and the steps to be more effective in investing wldlf crimes.
56:30 stop down
I'm Chris Shepard, I'm w/ Traffic SE Asia, I'm originally from Nern BC, town called Smithers.
MS: C, you're the numbers guy, you've e got a lot of numbers and that's what we'd like to talk to you about. In terms of #s, the wldlf trade here in SE Asia, what are we talking about here, in terms of volume?
CS: To put actual volumes on the trade here would be impossible, we're dealing with massive massive shipments of different species, esply reptiles dealing in the 10s sometimes 100s of 1000s of specimens in intrade annually of different species, especially fresh water tortoises and turtles, pythons, cobras, rats, snakes, monitor lizards, these sort of species, mmls, pangolins are traded by the 1000s. by the tons. Different species of bird, for the songbird trade, for the general pet trade, we're dealing in 1000s again, sometimes 10s of 1000s per species. And when we're dealing with the meat trade, we're looking at 1000s of kgs in one country alone, different regions, different districts being traded for domestic consumption.
MS:most of it's live, most of it's dead, or ...
ML: Depends on the species: fresh water turtles are traded live, exported live to markets, pangolins are usually sent live although frozen meat is sometimes sent. when we're looking at the trophy trade obviously it's dead antlers, skins, horns, [goes to monophone] this sort of thing, it really depends on the species, and the distance they have to take them.
[back to stereo]
MS: and how fast are we losing some of these species, based on the #s that you know about?
this is a big prob for us, measuring how fast we're losing things and which ones we've already lost
MS: How fast?
ML: How fast are we losing things, it's very difficult to answer for most species, bc most species in SE Asia we have no idea how many there are, there's very little info about the wild pop status, in some cases, we may have already lost species that we didn't even know about. But it is obvious that pop is declining from field research, trade monitoring, and dealers themselves, they're the first to find out ... they'll tell you in a region that there's no more this species collected here bc they're all gone, there's no more of these birds here bc they've all been collected.
MS: well broadly speaking what are the dealers, what are the traders telling you has been lost in the last couple decades, for example?
ML: Locally, different, the 2 species of asian rhinos in SE Asia, Sumatran and java rhinos, are locally extinct in many places , and some countries have lost them all together, and the traders will tell you it's bc of poaching. Fresh water turtles in a lot of areas are finished and traders will tell you that's bc they've already depleted the stocks, and so now they're trading in snakes or another species, there's multitudes ... pretty much everything in trade is declining.
MS: and when the traders tell you this? You describe it as if they're just describing another commodity and that's all it really is to them, I mean they don't think of it as anything beyond that
ML: well some traders are very responsible in their business. We have, there's reptile traders, bird traders that follow lege. And are concerned about the sustainability of the trade, they don't want to see these species be over harvested bc it's going to kill their business. That's one side of the coin, the other side is you have traders coming into an area and vacuuming it out bc they're making a quick buck which to them is just purely a commodity and if they've already finished the turtles, that's ok, we'll move onto snakes, snakes are gone, we'll move on to pangolins or something else, so those are the illegal dealers, and those are eth e ones the at are really of the highest concern and those are the ones that are ruining the business for the legitimate dealers
MS:and they're the biggest prob @ this point?
ML: yeah, from our POV [fade to mono] they're the biggest prob, it's an enforcement prob and it's completely unsustainable -they're wiping out the wldlf.
MS: you mentioned a specific ex yesterday I think it was turtles in medan, going [back to stereo] from medan to various places, can you run that by me again?
ML: Right in the end of 1999 we did surveys in the province of N Sumatra in indo and real [sp]. We found that the export of fresh water turtles live was reaching totals of 25 tons a week. This was 12-13 species of turtles being exported for mostly to china for the food market there. The #s have since gone down, we haven't repeated the research in the detail we did in in 1999, but in ad hoc in conversations with dealers in medan over the last 2 yrs, they've said these shipments are dropping down to 7 tons a week. Or 10 tons a week, and when you ask them why, it's bc the turtles are gone.
MS: they've had to move on to something else. But @ that point , you also said that these were the number one revenue earners cargo wise for the airlines flying out of medan.
ML: let's not go there on that one, yeah.
MS: well we don't have to mention the airlines,
ML: I still think we should be careful with that one, yeah.
CJC: Who are the traders? ... who is trading all this wldlf bc you go around and meet so many traders, who are they?
ML: I can give you levels ... I can tell you how that works, sure. The way the trade works, basically anyone working in a rural area or in the forest, rice fields plantations, they know that turtles are worth money. They're usually on a low income, so anything extra is bonus, so if they find a turtle, they can sell it to local collectors which are basically middlemen, a lot of towns will have a middle man collection point so if you have some turtles you want to sell or some snakes you bring it to this collection point. They pay x amount of money there, they compile into lrg shipments, and they are either the exporters that directly export to china or in turn they sell directly to another mid man to another exporter and these guys are the ones making the money, these are the ones that do the massive scale of exports to the markets in china, once it reaches the markets in china, it's obviously a higher price again.
MS: can you put a figure on it, the guy takes it to the mid man in the village, he gets this much for it and
ML: off hand I couldn't even tell you what the increase is from the it's quite a drastic increase but I wouldn't be able to tell you what it is off hand
MS: it's probly like drugs
ML: yeah, it's the same idea
MS: same scale. ... is this fueled by increased affluence by many of the ppl in these societies in SE Asia, is the demand fueled by that and the prob exacerbated by that?
ML:yeah, the trade is definitely increased through the region as ppls buying power increases definitely, there's more exotic and expensive pets coming into the region and being sold in the region, there's more exotic meats, or novelty meats if you want to call it that being sold in restaurants, as the buying power of certain countries increases then the markets, demand in those countries increases and the export from source countries definitely increases.
MS: and we're not talking just about food here, we're talking about so-called med use as well...
ML: right, food, med, pets, trophies, decorative uses, they're all reasons for trade on a large scale.
MS: what do you think the biggest is at this point, if you were to point at one?
ML: depends on the species, the pet trade in indo involves 100s of 1000s of birds. maybe more. Turtle export is huge. It really depends on the species. The hoxbill turtle trade for the shells being used as ornaments and jewelry is very large. I couldn't say which is the biggest, they're all huge.
MS: and what about the trade routes?
ML: trade routes? Wildlife's traded along pretty much any route you can go on, roads, by land, sea air, roads across borders are used, major airports are definitely used and are key in a lot of the trade, ships are used for certain commodities, it depends on the species again, if it's a long distance, then air is preferable, for live species as it cuts down on the mortality rate, for longer things are in shipment the higher the chance the mortality is. For species that are shipped frozen or parts obviously that's not an issue, so by land or by sea is fine.
MS: on the face of it though you would think that shipping by air is the most risk way of doing it bc the risk of detention would on the surface would be higher, but I'm hearing you say that's not the case, necessarily.
ML: yeah, it depends, there is a higher risk of the traders being caught by using the airlines however there's a lot of tricks of the trade so to speak where false declaration is used. The capacity of enforcement agencies is often not as effective as it should be or as they would like it to be, so the traders exploit this.
MS: do you have any exs? You did yesterday ... please say them again.
ML: species identification is a very big prob. you ship some turtles that are legally exported and you mix in with them a lot of species that are protected by law and a lot of authorities, enforcement agencies, lack the capacity to identify all of these species. It's a common prob thru out the world, species identification is a difficult thing and the traders know that and they exploit that to the max, mixing species, hiding species in luggage and cargo.
MS: how do you hide a species for example?
ML: a lot of species are smuggled in personal luggage, hidden compartments in luggage, clothing, pockets, whatever, hidden in a cargo of fruit for ex or may have boxes of tiger bone in it may have boxes of turtles, tiger bone med hidden in crates of other commodities, you name it, you can hide things anywhere.
MS: you've also got a prob as you do in my country with extremely long, porous undermanned, policed borders, do you not?
ML: yeah, definitely, it's very difficult to police the borders, you're looking at countries like the phil or indo that have 1000s of islands, therefore 1000s of potential ports, on mainland SE Asia you have roads, main roads that are monitored, you have everything from major highways crossing borders down to trails thru the forests, thru the mountains, it's virtually imposs to monitor these.
MS: and tony gave an example yesterday of having something yesterday of having something like thai and burma share something like a 2700 km long border and there's only 200 ppl who are in charge of enforcement along that border on the Thai side?
ML: the enforcement agencies everywhere have an extremely difficult task of patrolling the borders-they're under-staffed they're often under funded, they're under equipped they need more training, id materials, field guides, communication equipment, some of the staff airports don't even have an office, they're literally standing under the trees, and that's their airport security, the funding for these agencies is severely lacking and cooperation with other agencies and ngos and individuals working in this business is badly needed as well.
MS: if you can't stop the drug trade in this region, if you can't stop the gun trade, the flow of illegal arms in this region across the borders, how the hell do you expect to be able to stop the sale of wldlf?
ML: I don't think we'll ever stop it; I'm never going to be out of work. I do think though that we can make a difference, we can slow it down, we can stop it from happening in these airports with the coop of the countries involved. Definitely think we can and should slow it down to the point where we're not going to lose anymore species. We're not going to stop it completely, but I think we can slow it to a point where these species won't disappear.
MS:you actually believe that, that you can stop it
ML: I'm trying to be positive .
ML: I think with more attention globally focused on the wldlf trade more funds put into this, it can be stopped. It has to be raised intlly as a higher priority. Drugs, human trafficking, arms, are high priorities, why isn't wldlf trade? It's similar scale, it's intl, it's a crime like any of those, so I believe once this is recognized as a high priority, then things will change.
MS: what do we lose when we lose the wldlf?
ML:We lose everything from a balanced, functioning eco system, to human livelihoods, to the general health of the eco systems and ppl involved, ppl living in this region, we lose everything, we lose a source of food, a source of med, we lose a source of eco tourism, and we lose natural heritage that I don't feel anybody has the right to rub out.
ML: the way the situation is now, if things don't change, we're going to lose a lot, we're going to lose our fresh water turtles, our pangolins, tigers, rhinos, the Asiatic black bear and the sun bear, any of these species that are heavily traded, the way things continue, if things don't change, if enforcement isn't increased, lege isn't implemented and enforced, we're going to lose all of those, and a lot more. The way wldlf is viewed in a lot of places, it's not a high priority and therefore it will, we will lose it, definitely, with the quantities that are going out, the amount of species being harvested, it's not sustainable. It's not sustainable, its often illegal, and often it is legal but bc it's unsustainable, we'll lose them. So there is, it's definitely depressing, the situation doesn't look good. It's very few exs of species in trade that are actually doing alright, everything else is on the slide.
MS: I know you don't want to get pol, but part of the prob with enforcement is the lack of pol will, is it not?
ML: yeah, that's true, that's across the board. Wldlf trade, conserv just isn't a hot issue, it isn't viewed as a priority, and therefore the attention it needs isn't there.
MS: and I would also guess although I don't know for certainly prob some ppl in high levels of the govts in many of these countries are probly befitting from this trade in the same way they skim some of the drug/gun money.
ML: right, corruption just like the other trades, corruption is a factor, definitely. And that just makes the job of the enforcement agencies that much more difficult on the work of conservationists that much more difficult, it's true. Corruption's an incredibly difficult thing to deal with here.
MS: they can pay all the lip service they want to of honoring existing laws and treaties and agreements, but in reality it's paper, somebody said yesterday it's like the UN. There's no enforcement for CITES, there's no stick, and without a stick how do you expect them to behave? ... do you wish you had a stick?
ML: I think at the end of the day public awareness and pub pressure is key in solving this. intl awareness, intl pressure, general increase in knowledge in what's happening amongst publics worldwide, focus on these issues I think is key. Yeah, it's incredibly difficult, how do you deal with it, I'm not sure.
MS: do you believe that the same syndicates that are involved in the drug /gun running are involved in the wldlf trade as well, usually wherever there's big money, there's a big syndicate.
ML: a lot of the wldlf trade is very well organized, most of the large scale trade is very well organized, often it's the same ppl running drugs or running arms, not always, but often like you said, it's money, it doesn't matter where it came from.
[plane overhead ambi throughout last minutes]
MS:whenever there is a large amount of money to be made in drugs, in guns, you usually find a large syndicate involved. I don't know, but I would imagine the same to be true in this case, what do you think?
ML: definitely, esply the lrg scale wldlf trade is controlled by very orged ...
ML: a lot of the wldlf trade is very well orged, it's often the same orgs or same type that run a lot of the lrg scale drug and arms trades. Org intl crime groups, it's a big money maker, so these orgs are interested in it, so they do run a lot of the trade in this region, in any region actually worldwide. The smaller scale trade a lot of it's ad hoc and individuals involved, but once you get into the lrg scale trade and the big money making items, then it becomes more and more controlled and orged.
MS: and the more controlled and the more organized. And the more controlled and more organized it is, the more likely there's going to be collusions with some of the ppl in the local govts.
ML: yah, potentially, that's definitely a potential, obviously to run lrg quantities of wldlf, protected wldlf esply, lrg quantities that are going to be obvious, some sort of agreement has to be made somewhere along the line to get away with this.
MS: and I would also presume that a lot of the same routes that you use to smuggle drugs or smuggle guns would be just as effective and just as well frequented by ppl who are
ML: yeah, the same trade routes are used: border crossings: whether their legitimate or illegal border crossings, they're the same routes used.
CJC: Do you think that with the CITES conference being held here Thai next yr there will be a reason that these partic regional countries and thai ... that there will be some incentive to work harder to control the wldlf trade in advance of that, maybe?
ML: I think with the C-O-P in the region it's going to bring a lot of attention on the issues in the region which will hopefully come with a lot of increased coop, support, and increased enforcement in the region. I don't really want to say that they're all going to freak out and start doing a lot more work bc of this.
MS: bc you don't want to say it or don't believe it?
ML: I think they will. But I
MS: so these ppl can be embarrassed into doing the right thing?
ML: I don't want to say that, though, yeah. Pub pressure, intl pressure is effective, is needed.
MS: can you point to a species or a govt where you can say pressure has been applied in this partic situation and it's actually worked. ... that's really sad that you're taking so long to answer.
ML: yeah, I'm trying to think of one here, let me see. ... 1:24:28 I guess intl attention focused on the tiger conserv issues, trade has led to increased protection, pub knowledge, pub awareness in some cases ppl have stopped using tiger prods bc of this awareness and a lot of this has stopped bc of both local and intl increase of awareness. So pressure has helped in protecting the tigers, intl awareness/pressure.
MS: so it is possible, it's just not likely?
ML: it is possible, I think gen pub awareness needs to be raised whether it's from the country or intly so that protected species aren't traded, ppl choose alts in food/med trade, ppl are aware that the prods they're buying have protected species in it and will therefore stop using these. For ex meds using tiger bone, bear bile, rhino horn prods, as ppl are becoming more aware, hopefully they will stop using them and look for an alt.
M:S I don't mean to sound to flip about this and I apologize about this, you get down and dirty with these traders, you say you've been in this business for 12 yrs, presumably you go into some situations where aren't exactly the most friendly places to be. You've described a situation where it sounds as if you're beating your head against a wall and yet you have been doing it for 12 yrs. Why do you do this? Why do you continue to do this?
ML: WHY do I do this? I am quite optimistic about this,. I do think that ppl working in this line of work can make a difference, I think that there a lot of very good ppl in the wldlf and forestry depts in SE Asia that do need training, capacity building in various levels, collecting info is a difficult thing to do if we can help with that that's excellent. All the countries except for 1 in this region are party to CITES, so one of our jobs is training on CITES, and I believe that the CITES mechanism is a very good tool if used properly in controlling wldlf trade. ...
ML:well I hate the thought of wldlf disappearing bc of greed, bc of corruption, lack of knowledge, lack of awareness, I strongly believe that this is important, and if I can make any difference at all then I'm happy.
CJC: we haven't talked about markets too much and we're going to be going to markets, if you could just describe what that is? And also where we're going tomorrow, as a little set up for ... just describe where it is, what it is, what you've seen there b4.
ML: generally there's wldlf markets everywhere throughout SE Asia, some of them are very open, which points to how much actual enforcement is happening in that region, some of them are very secretive, with the protective species being sold under the table so to speak. The Tajilak market that you're visiting tomorrow is a large market on the Myanmar/thai border, it's just inside of Myanmar, it's a very well known market, a lot of foreign tourists visit there. This market primarily sells wldlf parts mostly for trophies, we're talking about large cat skins, leopards, tigers, clouded leopards, down to the smaller cats, the leopard cats, the golden cats, jungle cats, a lot of antlers and horns from deer, sumbar [sp] deer or the barking deer, elds, or the brown antler deer, the sea-rowl [sp] horns, the wild cattle horns, like gar [sp] or banteng [sp], some very rare animals, heads of the Tibetan buffalo can be seen there, prods from India, are often available, incl tiger skins, black buck horns, these sort of things, caters to the ppl who collect these sort of things for trophies, deco in their homes, some of the prods are sold to tourists, a lot to wholesalers who come to buy and then take elsewhere to sell.
MS: is it fairly indicative of this kind of market in the region?
yeah, this is one of the larger ones for cat skins, it's not the only one, but it is one of the larger when your looking at protected species, CITES 1 species, like the tiger, clouded leopard, sometimes you'll be looking at more than 60,70 clouded leopard skins on a visit, what the turnover rate there is, I don't know, but there's always protected species for sale.
MS: and the Bangkok market?
ML: Bangkok market is lrgly a live animal market catering to the pet trade, mostly birds, smaller mammals like squirrels, fresh water turtles and tortoises and reptiles, a lot of reptiles are from outside of this region like African species, Madagascar. A lot of the birds from indo, some illegitimately sold, a lot of them are. They're either from legitimate dealers who import them following CITES regs, but there is a lrg percentage also of wldlf that shouldn't be there. It's often difficult for the enforcement agencies to differentiate which ones came in legally and which ones came in illegally. A loop hole that the traders know well and take advantage of.
MS: they know when law enforcement's coming/when a raid is coming?
ML: sometimes they do, some agencies are quite good at doing surprise raids and irregular patrols that the dealers have trouble figuring out, but in general the dealers know when the raids are coming, or know who works for the department, often they're prepared.
CJC: we haven't heard anyone talk very much about china as the ultimate place where so many of these species end up. If the borders could be closed to china, would things change dramatically?
ML:china is the biggest market for a lot of the wldlf from this region, the fresh water turtles, pangolins, snakes, ivory is also, china is also a big/growing market for ivory. Hox-bill turtle shells. As the buying power is increasing and intl trade is becoming more, access to intl markets is increasing. Definitely is a major player. If china was to stop trading fresh water turtles, a lot of the dealers businesses would collapse. China's not the only market obviously, but for a lot of these species it is a biggest.
ML: I think intlly ppl should be aware of what they're buying, if they want to buy pets, if they want to buy meats coming from the wild, they should be aware of the lege, the source of these prods and be sure that they're not supporting illegal trade or unsustainable trade. I think ppl should be more vocal about the wldlf trade, more supportive of efforts to stop it, or to monitor this trade. There's a number of orgs that are working on these issues, it would be good if the public was more supportive of these and also more supportive of the govt, if ppl see wldlf for sale illegally, report it, it's often just ignored, it should be reported, there should be more of an outcry from the public on addressing these issues.
[discussion off the record about % and money estimated figures regarding illegal trade]
ambi: wind, birds, crew talking, traffic moving by in background, brakes occasionally, construction (like a metal hanger banging), Thai voices, reverse beeping sound of truck, honking. ok
1:42:55 cool bird call FX ok
1:43:15 STOP DOWN
1:43:45 END OF DAT, as marked by Chuck