Two hundred participants discussed innovations in counter wildlife trafficking organized by USAID Wildlife Asia in Bangkok

On 14-15 March, USAID Wildlife Asia activity hosted a unique conference on “Innovations in Counter Wildlife Trafficking” The event brought together 200 participants from a diverse array of backgrounds, including senior judges, Interpol and ASEANAPOL, police and customs officials, politicians, NGOs, international development agencies, university researchers and technical specialists, private companies and USG agencies from across Asia, Europe, Australia and America.

After a welcome by the US Ambassador and the Supreme Court of Thailand, the scene was set by highlighting successes of the previous five years of work under the ARREST project by Steve Galster of Freeland, after which Robert Mather the Chief of Party of USAID Wildlife Asia explained how we would expand and build on these successes in the coming five years. A moderated talk show session then introduced participants to the results and recommendations of a number of new baseline assessments and studies commissioned by the project.

A major highlight of the conference was the “Innovations Fair” in which different fair “stall-holders” displayed their wares for interested customers. On show were a number of examples of how campaign approaches used in the health sector with great impacts, could be adapted for use in consumer demand reduction in the wildlife trafficking arena, as well as a number of technological innovations showing great potential. These included:

  • the NOS.E hand-held device from Australia – still in a prototype phase but which offer the promise of a far more efficient and convenient way of detecting illegal wildlife through odors – that could replace the use of very costly trained sniffer dogs each of which can only detect 7-8 different products
  • adaptation of a hand-held X-Ray fluorescence machine for use as a non-invasive real-time means of distinguishing between Africa and Asia ivory (as well as fakes) being developed by Chiang Mai University in Thailand,
  • Wild Scan – a Smart Phone App to help enforcement officers identify species in trade, and
  • the Wildlife DNA Barcode tool.


Parallel sessions on three major aspects of USAID Wildlife Asia work – demand reduction, law enforcement and law/policy/jurisprudence reform generated exciting discussions and a number of recommendations that the project will carry forward.

The Conference also devoted a whole session to “taking our collaboration to the next level” in which participants could rotate between three out of nine  different projects for specific discussions they wanted to engage in. The final session was a “Call to Action” kicked off by Thai Celebrity Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Lotter who has agreed to become a USAID Wildlife Asia “Champion” to promote the efforts of the project over the next five years.


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Combating Wildlife Trafficking Innovation Conference - Copyright: USAID Wildlife Asia/Roengchai Kongmuang