LMI: Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking
The illegal wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar business threatening the Lower Mekong region's unique ecosystems and robbing the people who depend on them from the benefits they provide. It presents both security and economic threats by undermining law enforcement, strengthening criminal syndicates and raising the risk of diseases being transmitted from animals to humans. Illegal traffickers are well organized. They prey on endangered species, move them across borders and sell them around the world.
USAID's program to counter illegal wildlife trafficking began in 2005 with the establishment of the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN). The network has achieved significant outcomes that include:
Training more than 2,200 officials in anti-poaching operations and wildlife crime investigations;
Increasing the amount of illegal wildlife seizures and associated arrests by ten-fold in just four years;
Establishing a fully functioning secretariat in Bangkok; and
Creating National Task Forces to combat wildlife crime in Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) countries—Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam—and in almost every ASEAN country.
ASEAN member governments recognize the importance of wildlife trafficking and have committed the financial and human resources essential to enforcing legislation governing wildlife conservation, trade and sustainable use of wild fauna and flora. Likewise, they have agreed to implement regional commitments to ASEAN-WEN focusing on cross border collaboration on wildlife crime cases.
Target Countries: Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam
USAID’s five-year program, Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST), began in April 2011 and builds on the success of ASEAN-WEN. Implemented by the FREELAND Foundation, ARREST unites the efforts of government and the private sector (profit and non profit) to fight trafficking of illegal wildlife in Asia by reducing consumer demand, strengthening law enforcement and improving regional cooperation. ARREST focuses on LMI countries and shares its lessons with China and South Asian counterparts.
Operating demand reduction campaigns: ARREST uses its extensive media and advertising resources to support awareness campaigns in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and other countries to decrease the demand for illegal wildlife products. To date, ARREST messaging campaigns in the Lower Mekong region have reached more than half a million individuals through online sources and television, and through public awareness products placed in airports and at border crossings.
Elevating and building law enforcement capacity: ARREST places wildlife crime on the agenda of major national and regional law enforcement organizations, such as INTERPOL and ASEANAPOL (the ASEAN region’s police network). ARREST supports these efforts and helps police chiefs across the Lower Mekong region incorporate cross-border wildlife enforcement cooperation into their work plans. ARREST also works with law enforcement trainers in the region to develop training courses in wildlife crime prevention, detection and prosecution.
Supporting the ASEAN-WEN Secretariat: ARREST program experts mentor staff from ASEAN-WEN’s Bangkok-based Program Coordination Unit, and share new technologies to raise law enforcement awareness. This creates a stronger, more independent and service-oriented secretariat that connects directly with law enforcement agencies across the Lower Mekong region and in other countries. Promoting regional cooperation: Through regional events such as knowledge exchanges, regional investigation meetings and training courses, law enforcement officers from the Lower Mekong countries share information, intelligence and best practices with the new South Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), China’s Task Force and ASEAN-WEN. PARTNERS Implementing Partner: FREELAND Foundation
Cooperating Partners: ASEAN-WEN, ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity, ACRES, AsiaWorks TV, Conservation International China Program, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), INTERPOL, JWT, National Geographic Channel, MTV EXIT, Wildlife Alliance, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service.