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Greatest threat to Asia's wildlife is hunting, scientists say

KHAO YAI NATIONAL PARK, THAILAND -- Citing such examples as Vietnam, where a dozen large mammals and birds have gone locally extinct since the end of the Indochina War, a group of experts from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) have declared uncontrolled hunting and trade the greatest threat to wildlife and wild lands in Asia. The group, which held a workshop in Thailand's Khao Yai National Park last week, said that recent data from long-term studies show that throughout Southeast Asia and Indochina, current patterns of hunting and wildlife trade are not sustainable, and could lead to more extinction of wildlife. The workshop brought together WCS wildlife experts from nine countries across Asia (China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India), joined by global wildlife hunting and trade experts from WCS's headquarters at the Bronx Zoo in New York. WCS conservationists noted that the global scale of illegal wildlife trade is enormous; the annual trade in wildlife related products is about U.S. $8 billion, a scale surpassed only by the illegal trade in drugs and arms. At the same time, local subsistence consumption of wild game (frequently called "bushmeat" continues to grow at an alarming level.

"Asia is way ahead of the curve when it comes to wildlife trade: in Africa bushmeat is a critical problem because wildlife is still locally abundant," said Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, director of the WCS Hunting and Wildlife Trade Program and co-organizer of the meeting. In Asia decades of unconstrained hunting and trade mean that we are seeing the end of the game in many countries across the region, This is just the first stage of the losses, warns WCS. "Across Asia, many species are living in only a small fraction of their original habitat. If hunting persists in these areas we will see a huge wave of extinction in the next two decades." noted Dr. Joshua Ginsberg, director of WCS's Asia and Africa Programs.

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Contact: Stephen Sautner
ssautner@wcs.org
718-220-3682
Wildlife Conservation Society
9-Apr-2002


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