Old news is good news! This press release from our colleagues at Emerging Conservation Leaders shows how training can lead to enforcement!
Pattaya, Thailand (March 15, 2012)- Immediately following a Thai law enforcement wildlife trade workshop, two wildlife traders were arrested for participating in the illegal trade and exploitation of the protected slow loris. Under the direction of FREELAND Foundation law enforcement trainers, the training concentrated on mentoring 12 participants in managing wildlife crime investigations through the use of intelligence-led policing. Participants received instruction on investigation techniques applicable to wildlife crime, including electronic and foot surveillance, with both classroom and practical exercises. In addition, a biologist from the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) initiative provided information on slow loris biology, species identification, and care of confiscated animals.
Slow lorises are nocturnal, arboreal primates ranging in forests from Northern India to the Philippines. Four of the five species of slow lorises are listed as Vulnerable, and the Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed as Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. All five slow loris species are threatened by over-harvesting for the illegal pet and traditional medicine trades, and they are the most commonly encountered protected primate in wildlife markets across Southeast Asia. Trade in protected wildlife in Southeast Asia involves millions of animals annually, with Thailand recognized as a major international hub for the illegal wildlife trade. In Thailand, the illegal pet trade is located in transportation and tourist hubs, such as Phuket, Bangkok, and Pattaya.
The coastal city of Pattaya – Thailand’s “Sin City” – is located two hours southeast of Bangkok. Two thirds of all international travelers to Thailand visit Pattaya, attracting illegal wildlife dealers. The city’s tourist hot spot is Walking Street, a half-mile strip of neon where sex, drugs, and other illicit goods are openly offered for sale after sundown. On Walking Street, a network of Thai women carries slow lorises and sells photograph opportunities to tourists for USD$3. The terrified slow lorises cling to their handlers, torn from their forest habitats and thrust into a bewildering chaos of noise and city lights. In addition to chronic stress and poor care, most lorises in the pet trade have their front teeth removed to prevent bites. Traders use pliers or nail clippers to remove the teeth without the use of anesthetics or antibiotics. The international demand for slow lorises is partially fueled by viral YouTube videos showing slow lorises being “tickled” by their owners. In fact, the animals are exhibiting a defensive behavior caused by stress. Slow lorises make poor pets for many reasons beyond the illegality of owning one. They frequently scent mark with strong smelling urine, have complicated social needs, and have a diverse diet that is difficult to reproduce in captivity. In addition, slow lorises are believed to be the world’s only venomous primate, with a toxic bite that can result in death.
In Pattaya, the twelve trained officers designed and executed an operation with techniques and equipment provided by the FREELAND Foundation. The operation resulted in the arrest of two slow loris traders, who make a substantial profit by selling photograph opportunities with the animals to tourist. Interrogation of the suspects provided valuable information detailing the process by which the suspects obtain the endangered animals. In continuing operations, officers will use this information to target other traders in the network. The two slow lorises were identified as Bengal slow lorises (Nycticebus bengalensis) by the officers and biologist, and the animals were confiscated and taken to a government wildlife center.
The training was funded by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and FREELAND Foundation. IFAW and WWF also support the EWCL program, which brings together up and coming leaders in the wildlife conservation field for capacity building and intense training in campaign development and skills, including implementation of a two-year group international wildlife conservation campaign.
White Oak Conservation Center