Southeast Asia: At the heart of wildlife trade

Southeast Asia, perhaps more than any other region, encapsulates the full range of global challenges facing the management of biodiversity and trade in wildlife. Political and socio-economic disparities are large. Rapid development of infrastructure—often backed by foreign investments—and land conversion continues to challenge the region’s biodiversity hotspots. Levels of poaching, trafficking and consumption of wildlife products in Southeast Asia are persistent, if not increasing. The region’s endemic species and local populations of more widely distributed taxa remain under severe threat from hunting and illegal trade. This is particularly acute for many of the region’s terrestrial fauna. The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) function as source, consumer and as entrepôts for wildlife coming from within the region as well as the rest of the world—for trade that is both legal and illegal, with many inadequacies and loopholes concerning regulation, law enforcement and overall levels of sustainability. This globally connected trade feeds a demand for wild animals, parts and products for use as trophies and trinkets (or luxury goods), traditional medicine (TM) ingredients (including formal prescriptions and informal ‘health tonics’), and the multi-billion-dollar live animal trade.

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