Golden Triangle is ‘Ground Zero’ for Wildlife Trafficking – WWF

Golden Triangle is ‘Ground Zero’ for Wildlife Trafficking - WWF
Golden Triangle is ‘Ground Zero’ for Wildlife Trafficking - WWF

Tigers, elephants, bears and pangolins are four of the most widely traded species in the Golden Triangle border area where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet, according to a report released by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

Rhinos, serow, helmeted hornbill, gaur, leopards and turtles round out the list of endangered species that are openly sold in a region considered “ground zero” in the illegal wildlife trade. Endangered species are often seen for sale in a criminal trade that threatens wildlife A major driver of the trade is tourists from China and Vietnam travelling to areas such as Mong La and Tachilek in Myanmar, and border areas such as Boten and the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Laos. “Illegal, unregulated and unsustainable trade is driving wild populations of hundreds of species into endangerment, not only in the Greater Mekong but around the world,” Chrisgel Cruz, technical adviser on Wildlife Trade for WWF-Greater Mekong.

“Border areas like the Golden Triangle are where this trade thrives and where we must work hardest to protect the defenceless.” Many of the Asia’s poached and farmed tigers pass through the Golden Triangle, where they end up in tiger wine, on dinner tables, in dubious medicines, or as luxury items and jewellery. “Bear farms and tiger farms, along with wide open wildlife markets across the Golden Triangle, are menaces to wild populations of these species and should be closed,” said Bill Possiel, WWF-Greater Mekong regional conservation director. “This region has a deserved reputation as both a destination and source of some of the world’s most endangered species and that has to stop or these species could go extinct.”

Also covered in keratin is the pangolin, which is in high demand in China and Vietnam for its scales and is considered the most trafficked animal in the world. Another species, the helmeted hornbill, has a massive helmet-like structure on its head that is ideal for carvings similar to ivory. The serow, a mountain-dwelling, goat-like species, is highly prized for its meat and body parts, which are used in traditional medicine in Laos. Leopards, which were once widely found across Southeast Asia, are now poached for their skin and skulls. Turtles are widely sold, both alive and as decorative objects.

WWF’s work includes raising awareness across Asia on the need to close at least 20 markets by 2020. A New Species of Great Ape Announced. With no more than 800 individuals, the Tapanuli orangutan is the most endangered of all great apes. Previously, two species of orangutans were known; the Bornean orangutan and Sumatran orangutan. This new third species lives in North Sumatra, but is genetically and behaviorally distinct from the two other species. “This discovery not only demonstrates how much we still don’t know about the biodiversity on our planet, but also sheds further light on the precarious position species like the Tapanuli orangutan are in as their forest homes are increasingly threatened by conversion,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer for Asian species, WWF. “It’s critical to address the many threats to their habitat if we want to secure their future.”