An assessment of wildlife trade between Madagascar and Southeast Asia

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A new TRAFFIC study reveals Southeast Asia’s significant role in the legal and illicit trade of Madagascar’s rare and endemic wildlife and calls for intensified international co-operation to stem biodiversity loss.

An assessment of wildlife trade between Madagascar and Southeast Asia showed that 30% of 121 seizure* incidents involving Madagascar between 2000 and 2021 clearly stated the involvement of any Southeast Asian country.

The Southeast Asian countries were not only implicated because seizures took place there. They also play a role along the trafficking route as transit points, re-exporters or as intended destinations. Thailand was the most implicated Southeast Asian country, primarily as a destination country.

Scrutiny of the 36 seizures involving Madagascar and a Southeast Asian country revealed that half of the confiscations took place in Madagascar before being trafficked to other destinations. Meanwhile, 12 seizures were intercepted in the Southeast Asian nations of Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, and six others occurred in other Asian, African and European countries and territories along the trade route.

At least 39,277 individual animals and logs were seized in 36 cases. Major commodities seized were timber from Madagascar’s famed rosewood species, and reptiles and amphibians including over 5000 Malagasy tortoises, all of which are Critically Endangered and prohibited from international trade.

Plowshare and radiated tortoises seized in Malaysia in May 2017 – Elizabeth John/TRAFFIC

The figures reveal the long-term and sustained exploitation of Madagascar’s unique wildlife despite enforcement efforts and trade restrictions that have been in place for years. Madagascar’s biodiversity cannot survive this if the countries involved stop at just confiscating illegal shipments.”

TRAFFIC’s Voices for Diversity Project Manager and study co-author Cynthia Ratsimbazafy

The study also found that a wide range of wildlife – 328 **CITES-listed taxa – were legally exported from Madagascar to Southeast Asia from 1975 to 2019. Much of the exported commodities were declared as being taken from the wild.

Legal wildlife exports from Madagascar to Southeast Asia were dominated by live reptiles, amphibians and flowering plants. Thailand was the largest Southeast Asian importer, accounting for 83% of all transactions. Madagascar also imported wildlife from Southeast Asia, with Indonesia the largest regional source of wildlife to Madagascar.

Southeast Asian countries clearly play a vital role in both the legal and illegal trade of Madagascar’s threatened endemic species. The variety of Malagasy species legally traded is significant, and Malagasy reptiles and amphibians are traded openly and underground in Southeast Asia’s major physical and online markets”

Serene Chng, Senior Program Officer for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia and lead author of the report

“This is why only concerted and well-coordinated efforts across borders to regulate legal trade and tackle illegal trade will stem the losses,” said Chng.

Authorities in Madagascar and Southeast Asia must communicate, share intelligence, jointly investigate and disrupt the organized networks driving illegal trade, the authors said.

The study also urged all parties to address discrepancies and gaps in the scrutiny, control and reporting of legal trade, warning that failure to do so could give rise to traffickers using legal trade as a cover to mask illegal trade.

While acknowledging recent efforts to strengthen laws and firm action in both Madagascar and Southeast Asia, authors noted challenges in the conviction of traffickers, communications between agencies and countries concerned, and gaps in information on the legal status of shipments which hampered efforts to tackle the trafficking effectively.

Download Report – French

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