Ted Osius, 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 # 5, Interview with Ted Osius and River/Airport Ambi
Recorded in MS
Engineer: C. Thompson
Date: September 10, 2003
MS: (2:29) If you would identify yourself on the tape for me so Chuck's happy with the level.
Ted Osius: (2:34) Ted Osius, I'm regional enviro affairs officer for South East Asia and the Pacific for the State Department.
MS: (2:41) As I understand it a lot of this here that we have been seeing in the last couple of days actually was your idea to put together, to get these folks together. Why?
Ted Osius: (2:52) Why. Um, well, first the directive was from the state department. We, there was an interest in my bureau, the bureau of Oceans Environment and Science, in marrying law enforcement and environmental protection in more creative ways then we have done up ¿till this point. Um, I had some experience here working with wild aid and wildlife conservation society especially in Calleana National Park which told me these are the guys who know what's happening in this region, and I thought well if we are going to do some training in environmental law enforcement we'd better pick some of the best people and I think these are the best. In that sense it was my idea, to focus on who we could get who was the best people to teach a course like this.
MS: (3:41) But the idea of getting all these countries to actually send people um, is a new one, in this particular field...
Ted Osius: (3:48) In this field...
MS: (3: 48) ...of wildlife trade.
Ted Osius: (3:50) ...it's very new. We have done it in one other international law enforcement academy. We have done it in Botswana but I didn't even know that that was under way when I started planning for this one. And we did a different kind of course one focused on urban issues and pollution in Budapest Hungary at our ILEA there. There are ILEAs in various parts of the world, and, uh, I guess, Botswana was the very first one to do something that was focused on the wildlife trade and we're the second. We've used slightly different methods to do it both of them appropriate to regional conditions, but ah, with the same idea at pretty much the same time.
MS: (4:33) Why should the U.S. be so interested in this topic?
Ted Osius: (4:38) Generally we're interested in preserving biodiversity. And, we're also interested in law enforcement for a variety of reasons. When our Deputy Chief of Admissions spoke yesterday I expect he mentioned the other forms of trafficking that trouble us, trafficking in human beings...
MS: (4:56) I'm sorry, don't say yesterday because this won't be on until October.
Ted Osius: (4:58) Oh ok, um, our Deputy Chief of Admission opened the course. [water filling bucket ambi] He talked about the U.S interest in curbing trafficking in persons, trafficking in drugs, trafficking in arms, trafficking in wildlife and wild life parts is actually kind of part of the same patterns of illegal activity that we want to work with other countries to curb and we have this great partnership with Thailand on international law enforcement academy. It has prestigious image in this part of the world when you set up an ILEA course you get participants from all the Asian countries plus China and so it made a lot of sense if we wanted to do training at a level where it would then be replicated in the various countries in the region this seemed like a very good place to do it...
[Ambient noise interrupts interview...interview stops, tape keeps rolling]
MS: (7:47) In ah, in India when they talk about Pakistan and the ISI, the intelligence service, and everything that happens that goes wrong in India they talk about there being a nexus between the ISI, the criminal gangs in Mumbai, the criminal gangs in Calcutta, and in many ways what's happening here with the gun trade, the drug trade, the wildlife trade seems to almost fit that definition I mean that there is some point when they come together, is there not. And my question is how organized is it? I mean, are these actually the same people or the same kind of people at the top?
Ted Osius: (8:30) I would speculate, I'm not expert, I mean we've hired the experts to teach the, to teach the course, that [8:34-8:36 bucket and broom FX] I would speculate that the same roots are used, a lot of the same traffickers are involved, I mean there is big money in this. There's you know, something like, something like $10 billion a year of trade in illegal wildlife parts and wildlife, cross border trade, a lot of it funneling up through SEast Asia into China and I would imagine especially when you come to, when you are crossing national borders, that the same people who are involved in trafficking drugs, human beings, illegal arms, are going to be involved in this kind of illegal trade.
MS: (9:14) I mean the bigger the money the more likely the syndicates that are going to be involved.
Ted Osius: (9:18) I would think so. Again, I would defer to people like Chris Shepard who is teaching right now, ah, he knows far better than I but I think we are looking at patterns of illegal activity that reinforce one another.
MS: (9:35) So, from a law enforcement point of view then, by helping these people do their jobs better you're actually helping to contain the threat posed by those two...it's more than two isn't it...it's human trafficking, too as you mentioned, but there's three other money making, large money making illegal activities
Ted Osius: (9:58) Right and at the same time we're helping to preserve biodiversity in a part of the world that is very rich in biodiversity. You look at Asia broadly, and this is the center of the world's biodiversity. And if you start losing species at a very rapid rate in this part of the world, it's going to hurt everybody.
MS: (10:18) And what we are hearing from the participants in this thing, the people who are teaching is that even though we hear about the African trade more than we hear about the Asian trade it's because the Asians have already lost so much already. That the problem is actually worse here than it is in Africa we just uh, it just passed us by before we paid attention to it.
Ted Osius: (10:36) That's right, and I think there are actually connections between the African trade and the Asian trade if you look at the trade in rhinoceros horns, for example, a lot of those horns I think, rhinos may be killed in Africa but the horns end up in southern China, um, there are dealers in this part of the world who purchase illegal animal parts, parts of animals that are protected by CITES, from all over the world. But then certainly there are animals and animal habitats in this part of the world that are greatly endangered by this kind of illegal activity.
MS¿11:16) We always come back to the word China and without making it a governmental issue, I mean obviously it's more of a cultural issue, but if the Chinese were to close their borders effectively, if there was better enforcement of their borders and the political will there, would a lot of this trade simply dry up?
Ted Osius: (11:36) Now that is such a huge if, these are very porous borders when you look, for example, the land border between China and Burma these are very high mountains, hardly populated, very sparsely populated, it would take an army of law enforcement officers to patrol those borders. The work has to be done, not just at the border, I mean the work has to be done within each country as well. I think that when the attention of Chinese authorities was brought to the fact that there was this huge trade in illegal rhino horns, they clamped down. When they know about an activity, when they know about an illegal activity, they can move in and be very effective about dealing with it, but, I work on health and environment issues throughout the Meikong region, and disease doesn't respect borders. Water issues, water exchange issues don't respect borders. The borders between the Meikong countries and China are pretty open, pretty porous, you can't really clamp down. I don't think there's a way, the world is much more interdependent than it was, and the Meikong countries depend economically on exchanges with China and southern China depends economically on exchanges with the Meikong countries. You see this in their, their uh, political activities. There is a movement toward greater economic integration between Asian and China. I don't see a way to reverse those processes. I think you just have to cope with them and find ways to cut the damage, make sure that economic exchange continues but do everything you can to stop the illegal activity that is part of cross border trade
MS: (13:36) I think I'm hearing also you say, though, that you are not going to do much about the demand in China, where much of this ends up. That the demand is there and that is in fact growing, not lessening.
Ted Osius: (13:47) Well, actually I think we actually are doing a lot on the demand side. When pharmaceuticals are created, like Viagra for instance, I mean Viagra probably will save a lot of tigers, a lot of other endangered species, because it's gonna be used by Chinese instead of these traditional animal parts, ah, and so I would say medical developments are going to really help some of these endangered species but the question is, will it be fast enough? Will Chinese switch fast enough on the demand side from traditional use of animal parts in their medicines to modern pharmaceuticals to save their species, and...
MS: (14:34) Or their soups...
Ted Osius: (14:36) ...Or their soups, yay, shark fin, shark fin soup is an example, is a good example, um...
MS: (14:41) Turtle soup...
Ted Osius: (14:42) Turtle soup, yay, that's right, I mean...
MS: (14:44) I mean many of these people here are talking turtles, turtles, turtles.
Ted Osius: (14:47) Right I spent some time on the coast of Thailand and have seen the little baby turtles bubble up from their nest and have guarded them on the way down to the oceans edge, and protecting turtles, which are a migratory species that travel huge distances is a transnational challenge. It's not something that one country can do alone, so if we are going to do it's going to be by combining diplomatic expertise and the expertise of scientists and conservationists all over the place, that includes in China. There are a lot of committed people, people in China that are committed to conservation as well, and we have to team up with them.
MS: ((15:31) But in terms of demand and in terms of food, it's one thing to show someone that, yes, they are going to get a better erection with Viagra than they are with a dried tiger penis but what do you offer them instead of the turtle for their soup, or the shark fin for their soup. It's a little more difficult, is it not?
Ted Osius: (15:49) Well, it is difficult, actually sometimes you have to go into the area of health the persuade people that its not such a good idea to slice off a shark fin to put in your soup because the shark fin may have a higher mercury content than other sea food products. SARS, oddly enough, SARS may save some endangered species, because they have traced the corona virus that seems to cause SARS to civets, consumed in Southern China. Maybe civets in a certain kind of dog that are repositories for the corona virus. So even if you've eliminated it from the human virus you haven't broken the chain of transmission because people will still go out and shoot these exotic species to eat if they don't think there is a health risk. Now if they think there is a risk of getting SARS from shooting civets they are going to stop shooting civets. So, I think you've, you've got to, I mean, the challenge is complex, you've got to educate the public, you've got to use what tools are at your disposal to persuade the public to stop buying and consuming animals that are in trouble
MS: (17:09) Clearly we need to find something wrong with turtles that would keep us from eating them. A health risk with turtles (laughs).
Ted Osius: (17:16) Yay, and, and the really complicated thing with turtles is that they have such a long, it takes so long, from birth to maturity, to the time they start producing new turtles, that they are vulnerable. All that time, say if its, um, a green turtle, it's 18 years until that turtle is mature enough to lay its own nest, and throughout those 18 years it could get caught in fishermens' nets, it could be, you know, ah, on purpose or by mistake. What we are working with all of the nations in the region to do is to use, they're called, turtle excluder devices, and they are fishing nets. So they are out, engaged in wild, wild catch of shrimp, that they have these devices attached, or included in the nets, they are kind of big, round, they look like hula-hoops, ah, and you put them in the nets. And if you install them properly, the turtles can escape and you cans still keep your legal catch, and we've made that a condition of trade with the United States. And that has a lot of impact. Thais like exporting shrimp to the United States, they want to continue exporting shrimp to the United States. The only way they can do that is if they enforce their own rules, using turtle excluder devices and protecting turtles, and wild catch. Now, actually, most of Thai shrimp exports to the United States are from shrimp farms, not from wild catch, and they don't want to endanger that export either, because a purchaser can't tell the difference between a wild and a domestic shrimp. And all of their exports would be affected if you, if they don't follow the rules that they have set out, so the Thais are working very hard to do that and I think that's the kind of example that Thailand sets for other South East Asian nations that helps us in out job of trying to protect global biodiversity.
MS: (19:21) Enforcement is a problem, though, ah, not only the lack of resources but again, if we're talking about drugs, if we're talking about smuggling arms, if we're talking about smuggling illegal trade, there's a tremendous amount of money so the potential for corruption at high levels is definitely there. And, that's one of the reasons why enforcement isn't as good as it could be in some cases, in this region, correct?
Ted Osius: (19:46) Right, and that's why we're having this course. We want to strengthen the ability of natural resource managers and law enforcement officials to protect biodiversity, ah, and I think the only way you can do that is to build capacity and these are, South East Asian nations are nations with different levels of capacity in this area and we want to help bring them all up. One of the things you can do, I think is try to create centers of excellence, we have, we've helped finance some of the activities in Callaye National Park, there are being led by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Thailand, and two NGOs that you have encountered here, Wild Aid and Wildlife Conservation Society, and its now a model for natural resource management in the region. We helped fund something called the South East Asia wildlife protection training center, in Calleye National Park. That way, Law Enforcement officials can go to Calleye, they can spend a concentrated week or so in training, and they come back with skills they are going to remember. If you learn how to use GPS, or how to arrest a poacher, or how to do a proper investigation in the forest, you're going to remember that. If you go and sit in a lecture that you are required to do back at your ministry, you may not learn the skills that you need to do the job. This is very hard work. I've traveled in the forests of Laos, where poachers, very heavily armed poachers with big guns cross over the international border with Vietnam, and on the other side there are only community patrols to protect the forest. That's not enough. They need, we need to work with South East Asian countries to build capacity in their law enforcement communities so that we can deal with these kinds of threats.
MS: (22:02) That's one way to help them, and the shrimp example was, one example of a stick actually, its an economic stick but it's a stick and what are the sticks in other countries that you can use to convince them.
Ted Osius: (22:15) Well, I mean as you said on the demand side, the demand side is very important. If you can persuade the public not to eat shark fin soup you've won a big part of the battle. It hasn't happened yet, so in the mean time you need both, capacity and educating the public on consuming the products of species that are in danger.
MS: (22:43) I've had a couple people here, um, express their outrage with this whole amnesty program that went on here for the last three months that I guess is over today, or tomorrow...
Ted Osius: (22:55) This week
MS: (22:55) This week, um, they say it just sort of amounts to a franchising of the illegal wildlife trade in many respects here, um, before, you know, get your cronies' franchise in before it's too late. Um, ok, maybe oversimplified, but there definitely seems to be that element to it, which in turn gets back to that element of corruption in enforcement. Sorry, but what...
Ted Osius: (23:26) I mean this is a tough one, it's uh, a democratic political system, The leaders of this country were democratically elected. This a is a policy that was worked through a parliamentary system, you know who are we to say whether it's right or wrong. Um, we are going to keep working with all of the countries in the region, no matter what their political systems are to try and protect biodiversity. As, we're not going to win every battle, and so we're going to chose the ones that we think are actually going to have an effect, and in this case I think teaming up with governments to build the capacity of their law enforcement and their law enforcement officials and resource management experts in probably the best way to go. We can set good examples, rather than shaking our fingers at nations for practices that we don't think are so great, because that is not necessarily going to be effective. I think we are going to have a lot more success if we show what can be done well rather than go around and tell everybody that, oh, we ought to do it the way we do it.
MS: (24:38) But clearly this must have been a disappointment.
Ted Osius: (24:38) I'm not going to speak for my government on this
(24:52) Temporary Stop Down (for off the record remarks) ¿ END OF INTERVIEW
25:20 Chuck marks a shut down.
Starts out on deck of Oriental Hotel, L/R look across the river perspective (25:30 mark)
Then detail of moving across deck over to down ramp, getting on boat
Going underneath major bridge on Chaopraya river
Pick up some passengers on other side of bridge
Come back to hotel, ride front of boat, then middle, then front
Back on to dock
Then on deck, mic down on water, boats gathering down there.
25:33 ¿ sound checks
ambi: clicking motor.
25:16 on Chuck's mark
Ambi: Chaopara River in Bangkok [a working river, "big time"], engines starting and rumbling, [sounds like car traffic].
Minute 28 g: engines throughout and a little water sound on second half of minute
29:30s,40s,50s g: water splashing on side of boat, boat engines
30:25 stop down marked by Chuck
Ambi: ringing from constuction, engines, water as passing boat. g
Add Thai voices to ambi. g
boat chutters FX ok
engine and water and occasional Thai voices ambi vg
Ambi: engine picks up intensity, walkie talkie, water g
water (and boat engine, walkie talkie, whistling, Thai voices) ambi vg
same ambi vg
voices take over ambi, motor g
water picks up again, boat engine g
Thai children voices faint, drilling construction ringing, motor, other Thai voices, water ok
boat braking FX
boat/wood creaking ambi, ringing construction, voices, motors, occasional bird calls ok
water and motors ambi g
46:33 Chuck starts talking.
Airport ambi begins
Planes flying ambi ok
48:49-50 birds FX
49:30 Mark stop down
Plane takeoff ambi. ok
Something banging in background.
50:36 faint bird calls, car horn ng
Another plane take off ambi ok
Ambi: another plane (beach twin engine) landing/approaches/flies by g
54:00 temp stopdown
Airplane coming in ambi [birds barely audible], Thai voices ok
55:15 mark stop down
plane ambi vg
Parking lot at end of runway
Airport parking lot ambi: birds [barely, or at least just squeaks], cars, trunks slamming shut, car alarm beeps, loading/unloading trucks, whistles g
plane added to above ambi vg
motorcycle passing loudly by FX vg
motorcycle-plane sounds-motors vg
Footsteps FX ok
Ambi + Thai voices
Ambi of ground traffic only con't
car horn FX g
plane ambi joins vg
1:05:20 mark shut down
END OF DAT