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Reality show tackles wildlife trafficking in Asia

Reality show tackles wildlife trafficking in Asia



Updated May 30, 2011 13:02:18

Now to a reality show with a difference - a new series set for broadcast throughout Asia will tackle the growing problem of animal trafficking.

The program on National Geographic TV is called "Crimes against Nature" and follows an anti-trafficking squad as it engages undercover operations in pursuit of some of Asia's most deadly and dangerous animal trafficking gangs

Presenter: Ron Corben
Speakers: Steve Galster, director of Freeland Foundation; Marc Laban is director of photography at production house, Asia Works; Kraisak Choonhavan, a former senator and Foundation board member

TV NARRATOR: In the hotel garage Nu's vehicle is fitted with the GPS transmitter. Galster: If we lose them it's like a needle going into a haystack. We don't know where we are going today, we might lose them...Upstairs a call from the traffickers sets the wheels in motion.

CORBEN: And so a team led by U.S.-funded wildlife protection group Freeland and Thai animal trafficking police head off in pursuit of a gang in an arranged sting operation to buy a wild tiger. It is high drama but also real, unscripted and dangerous. This is the film "Tiger Trackdown", one of four episodes of investigations being broadcast on National Geographic TV in a series entitled "Crimes against Nature".

The stories' point to the multimillion dollar wildlife and endangered trafficking business in Asia that ranges from ivory smuggling to trading in wildlife for food or so-called medicines. In the forest tigers are worth up to 20 U.S. thousand dollars each. On the black market this value can soar five-fold.

Off a dirt road a back up team of police catches the traffickers, recovering the tiger cub. It is a successful outcome. Several are arrested as they attempt to flee. But the gang's leader, a Vietnamese-Thai woman remains at large.

Steve Galster, director of Freeland Foundation says official corruption is undermining efforts to halt the trafficking.

GALSTER: Due to the enormity of wildlife crime in Asia there is a lot more corruption than we thought. The good news is we have found good police - they are featured on this TV series - trying to support them and help them find other good police especially at the provincial level. This is a national Bangkok-based unit - they are pretty clean but they need comrades on the ground. And it's tough. It's a cat and mouse game. Good cop versus bad cop.

Marc Laban is director of photography at production house, Asia Works, which oversaw the making of the series. Laban says those most at risk are the confidential informants at the centre of the sting operation.

LABAN: You're dealing with really bad guys who will 'wak' you in a second. And so the Thai CI's to go out and sit in the hornet's nest and sit there talking about cutting deals for buying wildlife, those are the guys that are at risk. And they are the guys we're worried out.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a former senator and Foundation board member, says a high demand for endangered species largely from China fuels the trade.

KRAISAK: What we're up against is just the formidable demand from the market. Not in Thailand alone but a huge one in China, Vietnam. Increasingly Thailand wants to get away of being branded as the centre for trafficking wild animals but the demand keep growing.

CORBEN: In a survey conducted by Ho Chi Minh University's department of Natural Sciences and an animal welfare group, Wildlife at Risk (WAR), noted rising demand among Vietnam's educated middle class for game meat and animal parts including tiger bone gelatin and bear bile.

But Galster says policing of wildlife trafficking in Vietnam has improved with increasing law enforcement evident in seizures over the past year.

 Posted by admin on May 31 2011 17:55:29 0 Comments : Reads 2716 Print  

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