© WWF Laos

Fighting Wildlife Trafficking in the Golden Triangle

Growing wealth among the urban middle class across the Greater Mekong and in neighboring China means demand for iconic wildlife species is accelerating. A highly profitable black market has emerged, one that is less risky than those for drugs and human trafficking. 

The Illegal Wildlife Trade (IWT) occurs across Southeast Asia – from remote corners of Myanmar and Laos, to markets in Bangkok and Hanoi – but the Golden Triangle, where Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and China meet, is a hot-spot of the illicit trade. Here, casino-resorts, hotels, restaurants and markets openly sell illegal wildlife products with relative impunity. 

While it is understood that the majority of consumers in these markets are from Mainland China, buyers come from across the Greater Mekong and further afield in Southeast Asia, including Singapore.

Map showing flow of illegal wildlife trade in the Golden Triangle
© WWF-Greater Mekong

In order to fight wildlife trafficking in the Golden Triangle, WWF is working to strengthen wildlife law enforcement systems in the border provinces of Laos, Myanmar and Thailand through the establishment and support of Provincial Wildlife Enforcement Networks in order to improve collaboration between relevant agencies. At the same time, we are helping to establish communication channels across borders in order to secure effective intergovernmental action against wildlife trade while improving law enforcement effectiveness at key border crossings. 

At the national level, WWF is advocating to strengthen existing wildlife protection legislation, including species specific laws, with the ultimate goal being the closure of priority markets and the transboundary wildlife trade. 

Collaboration is the Key

Key government institutions and ministries in the Greater Mekong countries and China have taken collaborative action to address illegal wildlife trade within the region and to comply by the regulations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to which they are all signatories. By building partnerships with governments, NGOs, and intergovernmental organizations working on wildlife trafficking, WWF Greater Mekong is aiming to leverage commitments to close these markets, and simultaneously provide the information, skills, and tools needed for effective action. 

Drastic action is needed if we are to stop the staggering decline in species such as tigers, elephants, rhinos, and pangolins. The most visible symbols of this decline – the wide open markets of Southeast Asia and the Golden Triangle-- must be closed as soon as possible. A combined effort between WWF, regional Governments and NGOs, and international partners can make this happen with an ambitious, coordinated strategy that will finally close this deadly gateway.