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Breaking Chains: Collaborative Strategies to Combat the Illegal Trade of Wildlife

The Partners Against Wildlife Crimes Project, coordinated by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and supported by the European Union, held its last workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia from February 19–21. The purpose of the gathering was to celebrate the project’s accomplishments and to exchange lessons learned among partners. Through the use of civil society alliances to support government action, the project aims to disrupt unlawful supply chains for Siamese rosewood, tigers, Asian elephants, and freshwater turtles in the Greater Mekong, Malaysia, and China.

The workshop was attended by WCS representatives and partners from many countries in the area, such as China, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Malaysia. At the workshop, individual country presentations were given to showcase project accomplishments. For instance, WCS China and their partners presented information about preventing wildlife products and changing behavior online. Together with their partners, WCS Lao develops programs and policies to stop the trafficking of wildlife and offers advice to law enforcement. In the areas of wildlife crime network investigation, monitoring of wild tigers, and conservation, WCS Thailand and its partners have made enormous progress. With an emphasis on indigenous populations residing in buffer zones, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Cambodia use activity models to improve livelihoods and direct communities to take part in species conservation, monitoring, and protected area protection.

Overview of the final workshop of Partners Against Wildlife Crime project

WCS Vietnam and PanNature representatives gave a presentation on the project’s implementation outcomes in Vietnam, emphasizing the specific goal of enhancing the efficiency of the legal system and law enforcement in the fight against wildlife trafficking by raising the caliber and volume of information provided by civil society about the poaching and trafficking of our target species and by raising the number of enforcement actions taken against violators. To accomplish these goals, numerous media engagement initiatives were carried out in addition to the reports and information products produced and distributed by NGOs and the government. At the closing workshop, the WCS region’s media-related efforts were showcased as a successful example of an effective outcome that other countries may potentially learn from.

As part of the project’s execution, PanNature participated in a number of noteworthy media engagement events between 2019 and 2023. With the aim of connecting and sharing issues and challenges in CWT from each side’s perspective to find an appropriate neutral solution, the Media Bridge serves as a connecting opportunity for journalists and government managers. This helps to effectively resolve the root of lingering issues in IWT in the context of Vietnam. Five media bridge events for policy-making on wildlife trafficking and conservation were implemented during the course of the project’s five-year implementation, involving 231 people—80 of whom were journalists. 88 media articles [NTD1] were published as a result, and these helped influence pertinent policies in Vietnam.

Additionally, PanNature hosted training sessions for environmental journalists, featuring instructors from a range of organizations, including CITES specialists, NP managers, conservation specialists, rescue center employees, and seasoned investigative journalists (represented by a mix of genders, ages, and professional experience). During these seminars, the journalism trainers gave the journalists a plethora of knowledge on investigative and operational abilities, contemporary wildlife trafficking conditions, and conservation. PanNature organized eight seminars for media training which were attracted  143 journalists participating, resulting to96 publications. The long-term increase in article quality is the training workshops’ most obvious result. Before, news stories would just skim the surface of illegal wildlife trade issues; today, articles delve deeper, offer a wider range of perspectives, and incorporate insights from pertinent parties like national and local government, conservation experts, and analysts.

A representative from PanNature presented project results at the workshop.

Additionally, one of the most useful activities for media involvement is field research visits. Especially during the epidemic, 19 wildlife trade field[P2] [NTD3]  investigation trips to 23 Vietnamese provinces and cities, participated by 62 journalists and resulted in 123 published articles. Partically,   one cross-border trip to Laos was organized which greatly raised public awareness of the issue of the trade and consumption of wildlife products while pressuring national and local authorities to impose stricter controls. Participating in investigation visits are PanNature staff members and investigative journalists, who are usually experts in reporting and tracking IWT concerns. Apart from helping with logistics, PanNature personnel supported journalists with details regarding IWT hotspots and specific knowledge like the size, age, and traits of hunted animals. We helped journalists get in touch with conservation experts to get their perspectives and evaluations on the current situation of wildlife trafficking, which allowed them to add more depth to the stories after the field trip.

Moreover, ThienNhien.Net, the environmental news website of PanNature, also features stories around combating illegal wildlife trade. 3,422 news pieces, 46 infographics, and maps on topics such animal trafficking, trading, arrests, penalties, and conservation initiatives were reproduced and republished by PanNature during the program. Additionally, in an effort to raise public awareness of wildlife conservation and discourage the purchase of wildlife goods, PanNature has started seven social media campaigns on topics like tiger conservation, turtle preservation, and general wildlife conservation. Through social media, these activities have reached over 6.4 million people and garnered a lot of attention.

Apart from these endeavors, PanNature has released four intelligence briefings comprising policy studies, field reports, media briefs, and information on wildlife trade and conservation. These articles discuss new problems in the wildlife trade with an emphasis on turtles, elephant ivory, and animals in general. Through policy studies, PanNature assessed the challenges in managing the wildlife trade and offered important suggestions for regulating commerce and safeguarding species. 1500 printed copies of these publications are given to pertinent institutions, governmental agencies, and the National Assembly’s Information Center in addition to their online availability. 53 pieces in national media outlets distributed the ideas and suggestions from these publications. Additionally, PanNature translated and released two unforeseen English papers based on recommendations from colleagues and overseas partners.

Together with its partner NGOs, PanNature also works to make policy recommendations to the governments for measures to combat the illegal wildlife trade and promote wildlife conservation. After conducting two field investigations at Thanh Hoa market, a local marketplace in Long An province, Vietnam, where wild animals are sold, PanNature and thirteen other organizations wrote the Long An Provincial People’s Committee pleading with them to step up law enforcement to stop the illegal wildlife trade in the market. The Long An Provincial Government recently declared its intention to shut down the market in the first part of 2022. In an effort to stop future pandemics, PanNature and nine other NGOs working in Vietnam joined forces during the COVID-19 pandemic to submit an open letter to the government office pleading for immediate action to improve wildlife trade control and locate and shut down wildlife markets. Directive No. 29/CT-TTg, issued by the prime minister of Vietnam, lowers the risk of future pandemics by limiting wildlife trafficking and consumption through immediate and strict actions.

Promising and well reported research projects are also selected to give presentations at the last workshop. For instance, in May 2020, six articles about the illicit tiger trade were released. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development ordered the Vietnam CITES Management Authority to inspect every tiger rearing facility in Vietnam after the articles were published. Additionally, a translation of this series of essays was chosen for Southeast Asia Globe publication.

The five-part series “Wildlife Smuggling” that appeared in the Vietnam News Agency’s Vietnamplus publication serves as another illustration. It is the official information agency of Vietnam and has ties to the government. A network of wildlife trafficking was uncovered during the 10-day research expedition, which crossed the Laos-Vietnam border interprovincially and covered three provinces in Laos and one province in Vietnam from the border to the capital, Vientiane. Months in advance of the trip, PanNature carefully selected hotspots using information from sources and close observation by WCS Laos. This, along with a group of skilled and knowledgeable journalists, led to the success of the investigation between Vietnam and Laos, which was then extended to the regional level in order to unearth more intricate and extensive networks of wildlife trafficking. The People’s Committees of the relevant provinces are urged by the Department of Nature Conservation and Biodiversity to write a series of thoughts after the series is published and to promptly notify the appropriate law enforcement agencies. The Forest Protection Department specifically asked that data from the “Wildlife Smuggling” series be assessed by the Provincial Forest Protection Departments.

Notwithstanding the obstacles presented by COVID-19, the project was accomplished with remarkable results. The enthusiastic, knowledgeable staff of WCS Vietnam and PanNature, as well as their comprehensive and trustworthy news sources, along with the involvement of a diverse range of professionals and committed journalists, government agencies, national park managers, rescue center employees, and other journalists, all play a significant role in the success of the newspaper project. Last but not least, law enforcement efforts to stop and lessen wildlife trafficking in Vietnam have benefited greatly from the early response from government agencies and local authorities.

The project is essential to the growth, maintenance, and expansion of media activities for Vietnam’s wildlife conservation in the future. WCS national offices in the area will have the chance to share and learn from one other’s experiences, explore possible future cooperation, and exchange information during the Final workshop.

Link to Project page on WCS website:

Some pictures at the workshop:

Overview of the final workshop of Partners Against Wildlife Crime project
Trinh Le Nguyen – Director of PanNature express his ideas to the group discussion
Participants took a group photo at the final workshop.
Participants took a group photo at the final workshop.
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