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Prosecuting wildlife crimes in South Asia


Paro (Bhutan), 20 December 2018
- A regional workshop on the prosecution of serious forms of wildlife crime was organized in Paro (Bhutan) to discuss cooperation on interception, investigation, prosecution, and sentencing of wildlife crimes in South Asia.

The meeting was held on 18-20 December 2018 and was organized by the South Asia Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) and UNODC with funding support from the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Section (INL), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal and the US Department of State's South Asia Regional Environment Office (REO).

It brought together 22 wildlife officials, prosecutors, and judges from 6 South Asian countries with the aim of building a stronger national and regional prosecution and encouraging international cooperation. Led by legal experts from the Department of Justice of the United States and South Africa, international good practices on wildlife crime such as criminal charges, evidence, and international assistance mechanisms were discussed.

"Bhutan is very rich in biodiversity, rich in all the natural resources. But our biodiversity is under threat" said Hon'ble Lyonpo Yeshey Penjor, Minister for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan. "We have an uphill challenge in protecting wildlife and we are gathering here to work together towards fighting all these threats affecting endangered species. It is a very timely, highly valuable initiative."
During the three-day workshop, participants exchanged wildlife cases, admissible evidences and prosecution processes, and key legislations from their country's perspectives. These discussions will be crucial as a starting point in which delegates could coordinate with each other to collect more information on recent or current cases of wildlife crimes with a transnational dimension as well as encourage cooperation and harmonization of legal frameworks.
"Prosecutors play a crucial role to trigger more successful court cases at national level but also to promote legal assistance among countries to sustain broader cases against transnational syndicates. The presence of a network of like-minded practitioners, as you all presented here today, will be a significant enabler for increased cooperation among countries exposed to the threats of wildlife trafficking." said Mr. Jorge Rios, Chief of the UNODC Global Programme for Combating Wildlife and Forest Crimes.

The delegates demonstrated their commitment through presenting country plans to improve their national investigation and prosecution standards. They have agreed to sensitize respective agencies and organize awareness raising and skills training, as well as strengthen relations with other countries.

Did you know:

  • Almost 52% of the area in Bhutan is recognized as natural parks and reservoirs to protect wildlife
  • Bhutan is the only country in the world with a negative carbon footprint
  • Bhutan rewards 100% of fines to wildlife crime informants
  • Nepal has achieved 365 days of zero rhino poaching

Quotes from participants:

  • "The exchange of legal and technical ideas and strict prosecution techniques from this workshop will be a big step forward in strengthening the process in the region." Mr. Kinley Tshering, Forests and Park Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan
  • "The Lacey Act is an interesting case study that encourages us to probe investigations further. There are also wildlife sentencing guidelines in our country but [being involved in the discussion here], it helps us understand how it could be more well systematic." Ms. Shalinder Kauer, Delhi District Court, India
  • "The workshop was informative and eye opening, especially the part about collecting evidence, prosecution, and sentencing." Mr. Hussain Ibrahim, Environmental Protection Agency, Maldives

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on wildlife and forest crime in the region.