CITES Secretary-General's remarks at the 4th Regional Dialogue on Combating Trafficking in Wild Fauna and Flora - Bangkok, Thailand

Updated on 12 January 2021

Statement by John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General

4th Regional Dialogue on Combating Trafficking in Wild Fauna and Flora

Bangkok, Thailand, 11-15 September 2017


Mr. Thanya Netithammakun, Director General, Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation

Distinguished country delegates

Representatives of governmental and international agencies

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you this morning at the 4th Regional Dialogue on Combating Trafficking in Wild Fauna and Flora and I regret that the Secretariat is unable to join you today in person.

We are most grateful to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE) of the Kingdom of Thailand for hosting this meeting, which builds upon the previous three dialogues on Preventing Illegal Logging and Trading of Siamese Rosewood convened in 2014 to 2017.

We are pleased to see that this 4th dialogue has widened its focus from Siamese rosewood, to other CITES listed species affected by illegal wildlife trade in the region, in particular elephant, pangolin, rhinoceros and tiger.


Southeast Asia is a region of exceptional biodiversity with rich natural resources, which play an important role in sustaining a wide range of economic activities and livelihoods. It is also a region where there are varying degrees of illegal wildlife trade, for example in African elephant ivory, Asian big cats, Helmeted hornbill, Humphead wrasse, orchids, pangolin, rhino horn, rosewood, sharks, snakes, marine turtles, and tortoises and fresh water turtles.

These devastating crimes have driven some iconic species to near-extinction and they undermine development efforts, threaten the livelihoods of rural communities, impact food security, and put entire ecosystems at risk.

The need for source, transit and destination States to work effectively together across the entire illegal trade chain to put an end to this highly destructive criminal activity has been agreed amongst CITES Parties.


CITES provides the fundamental legal framework governing international trade in wild animals and plants, including for listed marine and tree species. Last year at CITES CoP17, held in Johannesburg – the largest ever meeting in the history of the Convention – Parties adopted a powerful set of resolutions and decisions, including on combatting corruption and wildlife cybercrime, annual reporting on illegal wildlife trade, strengthening national and regional enforcement measures, better involvement of rural communities, and demand reduction strategies. Decisions were also taken to strengthen the fight against illegal trade in Asian big cats, elephant ivory, pangolins, rhino horn, tortoises and turtles, as well as in CITES listed tree species.

All of this has led to well targeted activities that are underway in many countries, for example by implementing the National Ivory Action Plans and the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit, as well as numerous other activities.

In April 2017, the Secretariat together with its partners in ICCWC and Singapore as Host country, convened a Task Force on Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. The Secretariat is also providing significant support to Range States through implementing the Strategic Programme of ICCWC.


Over recent years, CITES Parties have decided to use the Convention to regulate trade in an increasing number of commercially valuable tree species. The success of CITES in supporting sustainable, legal and traceable trade in timber and other tree products saw CITES Parties agree to bring a further 300-plus tree species under CITES trade regulations at CITES CoP17 last year.  More than 900 tree species, of which many are highly valuable, are now listed under the CITES Appendices.

In July of this year, the Secretariat and the European Commission announced a financial contribution by the European Union for a project to support implementing recent CITES tree listings. This new USD 7 million of funding will provide much needed financial support to 25 main exporting range States of CITES-listed tree species in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The countries will be assisted in taking conservation and management measures to ensure that their trade in timber, bark, oils and other products from CITES-listed tree species is sustainable, legal and traceable.

The first call for proposals for the CITES Tree Species Programme was made in mid-August 2017, and Parties are invited to submit project proposals to the Secretariat by 15 October.


Illegal trade in Asian and African pangolin species have been increasing at an alarming rate in recent years. At CoP17, all eight species of pangolin were transferred from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. The Parties also adopted a Resolution on Conservation of and trade in pangolinswhich urges Parties to ensure strict enforcement controls to address illegal trade in pangolin specimens and further strengthen national and international cooperation to combat this illegal trade. A comprehensive report on Pangolins will be discussed at the upcoming 69thmeeting of the Standing Committee in Geneva in the end of November this year.

Asian big cats

For nearly 20 years, CITES has highlighted the role of organized criminal activity in the illicit trafficking in Asian big cats, which have always been high on the CITES agenda, and over the last seven years we have seen our efforts to combat transnational organised wildlife crime at global level and on the front lines significantly enhanced. The CITES Secretariat is continuing working closely with INTERPOL to provide coordinated support at the national and regional levels to help authorities fight illegal trade in Asian big cats.

Protecting big cats is the call for next year’s World Wildlife Day on 3 March 2018. World Wildlife Day 2018 gives us the opportunity to raise awareness about their plight and to galvanize support for the many global and national actions that are underway to save these iconic species.


This week’s regional dialogue, being hosted by the Government of Thailand, provides a wonderful opportunity for you to discuss the existing challenges in Southeast Asia and to move ahead with effective and sustainable solutions to enhancing collaboration and taking action against illegal wildlife trade in the region.

Let me close by again expressing our deep gratitude to the Government of Thailand, and all participating CITES Parties, NGOs, IGOs and experts, for giving the level of attention to halt the illegal trade in wild life that it deserves.

Thank you once again for the opportunity to address you today and I wish you every success over the coming days and look forward to learning of the outcomes of this most important meeting.