The Lower Mekong Region is home to around 100 CITES-listed tree species. These include CITES Appendix-II timber-producing species of rosewoods (genus Dalbergia), yew trees (genus Taxus spp.), and agarwood (genus Aquilaria), some of which are highly valuable for international trade.
This has made some of these species a target for illegal logging and trafficking. Local enforcement authorities and Customs agencies are in the front lines of the battle against wildlife crime. They must be equipped with the best knowledge and tools available to detect and deter trafficking, notably by performing inspections on suspicious shipments.
From 25 to 29 October 2021, the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) hosted an online workshop on physical inspection of timber shipments in the Lower Mekong Region.
The workshop brought together officials from CITES Management Authorities, Customs, Police, and other relevant administrations responsible for regulation and law enforcement related to CITES-listed tree species.
It sought to enhance capacity among national authorities to conduct inspections of valuable timber shipments, to correctly identify species, detect illegal consignments, conduct related investigations, and appropriately dispose of confiscated illegal consignments. The workshop also provided a valuable opportunity for representatives from different authorities to discuss and exchange information on timber shipment inspection best practices and challenges.
CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: "More and more valuable timber species have been added to the CITES Appendices in recent years, and their survival in the wild depends on the dedication of CITES, Customs and Enforcement authorities to prevent trafficking. We are delighted to cooperate with the FAO and UN-REDD and work with our Parties from the Mekong region to build capacity for physical inspections of timber shipments. This is not only crucial to the implementation of the Convention, but also to the accomplishment of our urgent commitments towards the conservation of tree species, the ecosystems they sustain and the livelihoods they underpin."
The workshop was attended by officials from Cambodia, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the following partners from the International Consortium on Combatting Wildlife Crime: INTERPOL, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Customs Organization. In total, more than 100 participants attended the workshop.
The online capacity-building workshop was organized in partnership with the FAO and with funding from Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative. It contributed to the work of the CITES Secretariat related to the implementation of CITES Decision 16.58 (Rev. CoP18) concerning identification of timber and other wood products, and was organized in the framework of the FAO-CITES Secretariat’s agreement to support the implementation of the UN-REDD initiative for Sustainable Forest Trade in the Lower Mekong Region.