The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funds Asia’s Regional Response to Endangered Species Trafficking (ARREST) Program and has been actively working to stop the illegal trade in wildlife in Asia. The program addresses trafficking in illegal wildlife in Asia by reducing consumer demand, strengthening law enforcement and improving regional cooperation and anti-trafficking networks.
The program unites the efforts of the 10 ASEAN member states, the ASEAN-WEN, China and South Asia, non-governmental organizations and private sector organizations. Together, these organizations are helping Asia respond to the challenge of protecting unique wildlife and natural resources. To date, the network has shown impressive results which include: more than 8,500 officials trained in anti-poaching operations and wildlife crime investigations; a ten-fold increase in arrests and seizures of illegal wildlife since 2009; a fully functioning secretariat set up in Bangkok; and a national task force to combat wildlife crime formed in almost every ASEAN country.
Reducing Consumer Demand
The program uses extensive media and advertising resources to support campaigns in China, Thailand and Vietnam to help reduce the consumption of protected wildlife. Additionally, the program assesses the results of the campaigns to determine how to best effect changes in people’s behavior regarding consumption of wildlife products.
Strengthening Law Enforcement
The program works with the region’s law enforcement trainers and institutions to improve regional and national courses and materials covering the latest techniques to prevent wildlife crimes from occurring as well as improved detection and prosecution tactics. Regional law enforcement has put these skills into action, arresting several wildlife trafficking kingpins and regularly seizing animals and animal products.
Promoting Regional Cooperation
Regional program events include investigation meetings and training courses through which officers from South Asia, China and Africa learn from each other and exchange information, intelligence and best practices. In early 2014, Freeland’s collaborated with the ASEAN-WEN, other U.S. agencies and 28 countries through Operation Cobra II, a month-long wildlife enforcement operation that resulted in 400 arrests and 350 major wildlife seizures across Asia and Africa.