US donates funds for Thai war on illegal wildlife trade

BANGKOK – The United States on Wednesday handed over its first Environmental Law Enforcement Grants to two non-government organisations in Thailand as part of a new effort to curb the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade.

The grants were presented by US Ambassador to Thailand Darryl Johnson to representatives from WildAid and the Wildlife Conservation Society in a ceremony at Khao Yai National Park, 125 kilometres northeast of Bangkok.

A US embassy statement hailed the two organisations for working closely with the Royal Forestry Department and the US-assisted Khao Yai Conservation Project to reduce poaching and illegal wildlife trade in and around the park.

It said the training and conservation project was becoming a model for all of Southeast Asia.

“Environmental crime is one of the most profitable and fastest growing new areas of transnational organised crime activities. Interpol estimates the global illegal wildlife trade at 8-10 billion dollars annually, second only to drugs and arms trade,” the statement said.

The US awarded 80,000 dollars to WildAid to help create the Southeast Asian Wildlife Protection Centre in Khao Yai, where Thai officials will receive training in environmental law enforcement.

Another 36,000 dollars was given to the Wildlife Conservation Society to design and implement a training course with the designation “Hunting, Wildlife and Illegal Trade: A Primer and Training Course for Law Enforcement Officials in Southeast Asia”.

Park staff, law enforcement personnel and conservationists from the region will be invited to participate in the training course and those of the Southeast Asian Wildlife Protection Centre. Tai have nearly doubled and much of the community has cleared its debts.