Securing a shared future for wildlife and people

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Taronga's male Sun Bear, Mr Hobbs

My name is Sarah and I am a wildlife crime analyst. I currently work at TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network. In September 2014, TRAFFIC launched the Earless Monitor Lizard report. This report highlights two key problems that affect and challenge much of my work in analysing wildlife crime. The first is the growing and unregulated role of the Internet and social networking in the trade of endangered and desirable wildlife. The second is the vulnerability of some of the world’s most enigmatic and charismatic species; traits which offer great appeal for specialist collectors around the world and an opportunity for unscrupulous traders to exploit and capitalise upon.

 Earless Monitor Lizards are fascinating reptiles and are unique due to the absence of an external ear opening. They have a cylindrical lengthened body covered in scaly tubercles (due to an increased number of vertebrae), small limbs, a prehensile tail, a forked tongue, and small eyes with the lower eyelid covered by translucent ‘windows’ Truly a living fossil!

 The necessity of data to my role is crucial and at TRAFFIC we collect a variety of information from many different sources. This information is processed, evaluated and finally analysed to enable the production of reports on problems such as the Earless Monitor Lizard trade or to draw conclusions from widespread and prevalent issues such as the illegal trade in bears.

Our most recent analysis “Brought to Bear: An Analysis of Seizures across Asia (2000-2011)” found that at least 2,800 bears had been seized from the illegal trade. To understand where the biggest problems exist, we examined bears parts as commodity types to illustrate the preferences of certain countries for certain bear parts across Asia (as shown in the infographic below). This helps us to formulate a realistic, solution-orientated approach based upon the identified problem. While some may find this unemotional; it helps us to be as objective and focussed as possible. #Takingcareofbears

 In conjunction with Taronga Zoo, TRAFFIC launched the Wildlife Witness app in April 2014. The app is a simple way tourists can report suspected incidents of illegal wildlife trade when visiting Southeast Asia. The world’s global wildlife trade hotspot! (Available on iPhone and Android, download today if you haven’t already). The app provides information about species in trade to be aware of and the forms in which wildlife are commonly traded. So far we have received reports concerning the poaching of pangolins, protected species observed openly for sale and consumed including tiger claws, tortoises, wild-caught orchids and rare primates.  Reports have been received from Viet Nam, Thailand, Singapore, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines.

 Reports made via the app are received and fed into TRAFFIC’s centralised global database. This is combined with other data and intelligence we receive so we can report on chronic hotspots, transnational smuggling routes, trafficking methods, emerging species at threat and the organised criminality that facilitates trade. Using an intelligence-led approach and utilising some of the world’s most sophisticated software we are targeting those causing the greatest harm to the world’s most endangered wildlife in a methodological and systematic way. The collection of information in this manner is then communicated to enforcement agencies to catalyse? and support law enforcement work at a local, national and international level. Together with sustained behavioural change programmes TRAFFIC are tackling the issue head on and working towards preventing and eradicating this damaging and unsustainable trade type.

 Everyone can do their bit, by downloading the app, being aware of what to avoid particularly when visiting Southeast Asia and ‘liking’ us on Facebook to keep up to date with the latest wildlife trade news! https://www.facebook.com/Trafficsea

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