Law enforcement essential if last tigers are to be saved
CITES awards Certificate of Commendation to Thai authorities for tiger cub seizure in Bangkok airport
Geneva, 08 October 2010 - The Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has announced a decision to award Certificates of Commendation to the Airports of Thailand Public Company and the CITES Wildlife Checkpoint of the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department of the Government of Thailand, at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.
The Certificates will be awarded in recognition of a seizure, made at Suvarnabhumi Airport on 23 August 2010, when officials of the two agencies discovered a person attempting to smuggle a live tiger cub out of the country. The tiger had been carefully concealed in baggage but was discovered during X-ray screening.
The announcement came during a tiger conservation event, held in the margins of the 10th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is taking place in Nagoya, Japan. The CITES Secretary-General, Mr John Scanlon, praised the work of the two agencies saying: "In this Chinese Year of the Tiger and International Year of Biodiversity, and as tigers face a very real threat of extinction, it is especially commendable that this tiger was saved from entering illegal trade thanks to the efforts of the Thai authorities. Future generations should not have to look at the last tigers behind bars in a zoo. Instead, it is those criminals who poach and trade tigers that should be the ones behind bars."
The seizure came after the port security staff received training on wildlife smuggling techniques. The Government of Thailand was supported in these efforts to fight illegal wildlife trade by the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the TRAFFIC non-governmental organization.
Mr Scanlon added: "The way in which numbers of this species have plummeted from over 100,000 in the early 1900s to today's estimates of only 3,200, demonstrates only too starkly why urgent action is needed if we are to safeguard tigers and their habitats for future generations."
The Honourable Suwit Khunkitti, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Thailand, who co-chaired the tiger event, remarked: "It is critically important to demonstrate our country's firm commitment to keeping tigers in the wild and combating illegal trade in their parts and derivatives." He added: "While ASEAN-WEN has made great progress, it is still young. The truth is, it remains unknown to some of our national leaders. And of course, it remains focused on Southeast Asia. Our region's illegal trade in tigers and other endangered species is linked to the rest of the world. Effective wildlife crime suppression requires top level political support and global cooperation."
The CITES Secretariat has played a major role with regard to enforcement-related issues in the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), which is supported by the World Bank. GTI efforts are to be considered at an International Tiger Forum, to be held in Saint Petersburg, Federation of Russia, from 21 to 24 November 2010.
The CITES Secretary-General intends to present the Certificates of Commendation to representatives of the two agencies when he visits Thailand later this year as part of the preparations for the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES scheduled for 2013.
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