For Mekong officials fighting timber traffickers, a chance to level up

The trafficking of illicit timber has hit the forested, tropical countries around the Mekong River Delta hard in recent years. Regulations and laws in places like the European Union and the United States, as well as from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), have sought to decouple trade from the illegal harvest of timber. But the situation has created a complex and at times confusing working environment for customs, law enforcement and forestry officers.

In late October, more than 100 of these officials from half a dozen countries in and around the Lower Mekong region met online to bolster their skills in timber identification. The aim of the CITES-led workshop was to give them the tools to root out illegal shipments of timber and wood products into and out of their countries.

CITES lists some 100 tree species in the Lower Mekong region in a set of lists, or appendices, cataloging threatened and endangered plants and animals. On top of the density of at-risk species, officials struggle to maintain the capacity to ensure the legal trade of these species, said Thuok Nao, chairman of Cambodia’s CITES management authority, in an email to Mongabay.

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