Shenzhen (China), 29 November 2019 - 2019 has experienced a rise in the detection of illegal wildlife trade in East and Southeast Asia, with countries recording their highest ever seizures of smuggled endangered species. Singapore intercepted more than 25 tons of African pangolin scale in April, Viet Nam seized a shipment of more than 9 tons of African ivory in March, and a number of other large-scale seizures took place in China and Hong Kong SAR (China). While these incidents indicate an improvement in the interception capacity of many customs authorities in the region, it cannot be excluded that they also indicate a surge in trafficking.
To further improve results and cooperation, international organizations and representatives of customs and law enforcement agencies gathered in Shenzen, China on November 25 to discuss the results of a June wildlife-focused international operation - operation Thunderball - involving more than 100 countries and coordinated by the World Customs Organization and INTERPOL.
"When cooperation happens, results come," stressed Miwa Kato, Director of the Division of Operations of UNODC in her opening speech at the Shenzen meeting. "For a lasting impact, it is necessary to go beyond these seizures, by following financial trails, using modern technology, and adopting special investigative techniques, with the goal of identifying, investigating and eventually dismantling the transnational organized groups behind the crime."
In congratulating China Customs for hosting the meeting, Director Kato highlighted that "UNODC is equipped and committed to assist Member States to build responses to transnational organized crime, such as human trafficking, wildlife trafficking, drug trafficking, or serious economic crimes including corruption and money laundering".
Members of the International Consortium for Combating Wildlife Crimes attending the meeting also reiterated their joint commitment to assist building effective and transnational responses to the most serious forms of wildlife crime.
The visit of Director Kato also offered an opportunity to hold bilateral discussions with different parts of the Government of the People's Republic of China, including the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Justice and the General Administration of China Customs. UNODC and China discussed and agreed on ways to further strengthen their partnership in all areas of rule of law and criminal justice. At a separate meeting UNODC explored opportunities of future cooperation with the tech conglomerate Tencent to counter the online illegal wildlife trade.