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Cablegate: Asian Ministerial Continues Efforts to Prevent Extinction

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EPA FOR OIA FREEMAN
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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ETRD ETTC ASEAN SAARC XC XE NP TH
SUBJECT: Asian Ministerial Continues Efforts to Prevent Extinction
of Wild Tigers

Ref: 09 Kathmandu 394; 09 Kathmandu 1002 (C) 09 Bangkok 2963 (D) 09
Bangkok 709

BANGKOK 00000456 001.2 OF 005


1. (U) Summary: In a ministerial meeting hosted by Thailand and
the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) last month, thirteen
tiger range states issued a joint declaration to stem the alarming
decline of tigers in the wild, through regional law enforcement and
country action plans. They agreed to work to double the current
population of 3,200 wild tigers by 2022, and to plan to set up a
multi-donor trust fund or some similar arrangement before a heads of
government forum Russia will host in September. In preparation for
the forum, the Bank and Indonesia will host a partners' dialogue in
June. Many participants agreed that greater involvement in GTI
decisions and planning by tiger range states would strengthen its
efforts to increase the number of tigers in the wild. With illegal
trade the greatest short term threat, India, China and others
announced various transboundary anti-trafficking agreements. While
little progress was made in solidifying a South Asia Wildlife
Enforcement Network (SA-WEN), the USG-supported Association of
Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN) was
highlighted for its successes. Challenges remain: convening 13
heads of government, developing funding mechanisms and refining
national tiger conservation action plans. End Summary.

MINISTERIAL AFFIRMS TRANSNAITONAL COOPERATION
---------------------------------------------
2. (SBU) Thailand and the World Bank's Global Tiger Initiative (GTI)
hosted the first Asian Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation
in Hua Hin from January 27-29. The Bank leads GTI, a partnership
that includes the Smithsonian and the International Tiger Coalition,
a group of 39 non-governmental organizations. This meeting, which
followed up on the recommendations of GTI's October Kathmandu Global
Tiger Workshop (ref B) is one of a series of GTI-sponsored
gatherings aimed at mobilizing support to stop the decline of tigers
in the wild, now estimated to number only 3,200 worldwide. Thirteen
tiger range states attended, with environment ministers representing
Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand, and high level
representatives attending from Burma, Cambodia, China, India,
Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Russia and Vietnam. (Note: Part of North
Korea lies within the range that could support tigers, but there is
no recent confirmation of tigers there, and North Korea was not
present. End Note.)
3. (SBU) Thailand's Natural Resources and Environment Minister
Suwit Khunkitti welcomed delegates. (Note: World Wildlife Fund
awarded Suwit the J. Paul Getty Award for Conservation leadership at
the meeting, for domestic conservation and for his leadership in
setting up the ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network. End Note.) Video
messages from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and World Bank
President Robert Zoellick stressed the need for range state
cooperation at all levels to prevent threatened extinction due to
habitat loss, declining prey and poaching. Zoellick also suggested

BANGKOK 00000456 002.2 OF 005


range states adopt the science-based recommendations of the
Kathmandu meeting.


4. (SBU) The meeting adopted a declaration calling for intensified
cooperation in wildlife law enforcement and for the creation within
nine months of a multi-donor trust fund or some similar flexible
financing arrangement for tiger conservation. The range state
representatives also agreed to focus attention on tiger conservation
during the lunar "year of the tiger" in 2010, and to work to double
the global number of tigers in the wild by 2022, the next lunar year
of the tiger. (Note: During the Senior Official's Meeting that
preceded the Ministerial, representatives expressed concern that
while the doubling of tigers would be the goal for each nation,
several smaller states with smaller tiger populations would not be
able to double; the group agreed that the declaration would reflect
doubling as a global goal to which all range states would
contribute. End Note.)

5. (SBU) The Declaration stressed the need to balance conservation
and development. After an extensive discussion on habitat
definitions and strategies, representatives pledged that range
states would zone corridors and buffer zones that were not already
protected areas, and not support or finance development projects
that would harm tiger conservation. Thailand announced it would
connect the three Huai Kha Khaeng forest reserves as a corridor for
around 300 tigers. (Comment: There are some interesting avenues for
conservation and greenhouse gas reduction based on NGO
presentations. For example, peatlands are in some cases also tiger
habitat; if Indonesia agreed to stop conversion of peatlands, it
could serve a double purpose. One presentation used work in Peru to
show how satellite data could be used to synchronize carbon
inventories within tiger range states, suggesting an avenue for U.S.
technical expertise to assist. NASA data in the past was helpful in
mapping conservation for the Congo Basin. End Comment.)

TRADE AND TRANSNATIONAL AGREEMENTS: SOME THERE, SOME NOT
--------------------------------------------- ---------
6. (SBU) As range countries presented national actions to date, a
number of transborder agreements to cooperate in fighting the tiger
trade were highlighted: Nepal/India; Nepal/China; Thailand/Laos;
Thailand/Burma; and Laos/Vietnam. Thai Minister Suwit called for an
Asia wide Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) to replicate success of
the ASEAN WEN that Thailand hosts. (Ref B) (Comment: Noticeably
lacking was mention of China/India cooperation. Hopefully Nepal can
play a pivotal role to stop the India/Nepal/China tiger trade nexus.
NGO and donor support will be particularly critical to help range
states manage these arrangements. The USG-supported ASEAN Wildlife
Enforcement Network is indeed a good model with its successful
transborder investigations. An OES-funded grant to UN Office on
Drugs and Crime will connect UN anti-trafficking efforts with

BANGKOK 00000456 003.2 OF 005


ASEAN-WEN. The NGO community will focus on support for
transnational tiger trade interdiction in its work plan for the
Vladivostok forum. End Comment.)
7. (SBU) In the declaration the range states pledged to protect
tigers by eliminating international trade in tigers and tiger parts
through laws and enforcement. China expressed reservations about a
separate trade section making permanent a trade ban for tigers and
tiger parts. (Note: China and Thailand have a number of Tiger
"farms" where tiger part trade is supposedly prohibited but widely
suspected of occurring. End Note.)
SOUTH ASIA WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT NETWORK
---------------------------------------
8. (SBU) This Ministerial failed to act on plans endorsed at the
Kathmandu meeting to make the South Asian Wildlife Enforcement
Network (SA-WEN) a functioning network (REF B). SA-WEN, established
by regional environment ministers in May 2008, has never actually
begun operations, and a planned experts' meeting to facilitate
SA-WEN has yet to occur. In Kathmandu, Nepal offered, with India's
support to house the SA-WEN secretariat; at this Ministerial, India
suggested that South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation
(SAARC) approval needed to be obtained before SA-WEN can begin
operations. India persuaded delegates to remove references to
SA-WEN from the declaration. However, NGO TRAFFIC reported from a
meeting last week that Indian Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh promised
to help move SAWEN forward. At the Ministerial, there was a side
meeting among the four South Asia countries present (Bangladesh,
Bhutan, India, and Nepal) to plan how SA-WEN should be run; the
upcoming SA-WEN Expert's group meeting, which India proposed to
host, would seek agreement among all eight members on a work plan
and acceptance of Nepal's offer to host the secretariat. In a
previous meeting with Regional South Asia Hub officer, Nepal's
Forestry Minister expressed eagerness to toughen regional
enforcement and was interested in technical assistance and funding.
Nepal's National Trust for Nature Conservation, an NGO, has asked
USAID-supported NGO Freeland to set up training replicating the
ASEAN WEN model.
NGO SUPPORT, THE GTI AND AB INTERNATIONAL TRUST FUND?
--------------------------------------------- -------- 9. (SBU)
The delegates pledged to mobilize domestic funding through
mechanisms such as payment for environmental services (PES), but
they also called on international donors to help fund tiger
conservation. Most of the NGOs involved in Tiger Conservation
attended the Ministerial and held extensive side meetings to plan
support. World Wildlife Fund agreed to lead development of a work
plan of NGO support that would be ready by the Vladivostok forum. In
the declaration, the states agreed to update national action plans,
but they also called on the international community to set up a
trust fund or similar flexible funding arrangements before the
forum. (Note: Nothing concrete came out of the Ministerial to
solidify a plan for the trust fund. End Note.)
10. (SBU) At the side meetings, NGOs, donors, multilateral banks and

BANGKOK 00000456 004.2 OF 005


range state representatives agreed that the Bank's Global Tiger
Initiative (GTI) would benefit from greater range state involvement.
Governmental involvement would provide clarity about GTI goals, and
initiatives post-Vladivostok. In the 20-month existence of the GTI,
the Bank has funded and held several large international meetings,
including this Ministerial and provided a million dollars for a
program to train trainers in tiger conservation techniques. At the
Hua Hin meeting, the Bank announced (after some pressure from India)
that the first phase of the training will be for six weeks at the
Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun to be followed, by two weeks
the U.S. at the Smithsonian's Front Royal Virginia facility.
Separately, the bank will also host a GTI Executive Leadership Forum
to provide training for senior officials from April 15-21 in
Washington right before the spring International Monetary Fund
meetings; Ministers from Nepal and Thailand have given tentative
indications they may attend.
NEXT STEPS: INDONESIA, RUSSIA, INDIA MEETINGS
---------------------------------------------
11. (SBU) Russia announced that PM Vladimir Putin would host the
September tiger forum at the heads of government level in
Vladivostok. (Note: The Bank sees this forum as the culmination of
its effort to mobilize high-level political will to reverse the
decline of tiger populations. End Note.) Russia and the Bank
provided few details about the forum other than timing; Russia
agreed to reconsider the September 11-12 date after delegates noted
its conflict with the Muslim holiday Eid. Indonesia agreed to host,
with the Bank a GTI partners' dialogue in June to discuss funding
and other topics. India also announced that it still plans to hold
a separate high-level meeting on tiger conservation, perhaps in
November 2010. The range state representatives agreed to the
Nepalese Forest Minister's proposal to celebrate July 29 as tiger
awareness day, in part to publicize the Vladivostok forum.

COMMENTS
--------
12. (SBU) The Bank has yet to identify funding sources for the
kind of pilot demonstration projects Bank President Zoellick called
for in his video address, or to interest regional nations to jointly
seek low-interest Bank loans for tiger conservation. The
forthcoming meetings in Jakarta and Vladivostok will provide the
Bank an opportunity to establish a greater role for tiger range
states in GTI planning and decision making, and to clarify GTI goals
and future initiatives. Resolving these important matters would
greatly strengthen the effort to bring tigers back from the brink of
extinction by doubling the number of wild tigers.
13. (SBU) The several international agreements listed at the forum
were positive indications of the transborder cooperation necessary
to stop the tiger trade. India's insistence on holding its own
Tiger meeting after Vladivostok seemed to signal a limit to how much
that range state would allow the Bank and GTI to take the lead in
international tiger conservation. China came to the Ministerial

BANGKOK 00000456 005.2 OF 005


with a deep delegation, well-prepared and with clear positions on
matters such as trade. Both China and India appeared firm in
wanting to claim leadership in international tiger conservation
efforts and not leave it to the Bank, NGOs or others.
14. (U) A significant unanswered question is who would set up a
Tiger trust fund before the September forum. The World Bank has not
identified funding sources for the fund and no donors have indicated
interest beyond continuing existing environmental funding and plans
for funding that includes programs which benefit tigers. Also
important will be commitments from range states for concrete action
plans. With ASEAN WEN, member state ownership and funding is
equally important, with the need for member states to contribute
funds and send law enforcement officers to the ASEAN WEN
headquarters in Bangkok. SAWEN will face similar challenges as it
emerges.
15. (SBU) The attendance of only four range state ministers was a
disappointment, calling into some question the convening power of
the Bank and GTI and suggesting a challenge for Russia to convene
with the Bank a meeting for thirteen heads of state. China,
Malaysia and others expressed concern that the initial draft
declaration would commit range states beyond the authority of the
environment ministries represented, and various references were
dropped relating to infrastructure or finance. The heads of
government forum planned for September would hopefully provide the
venue for governmental commitments that cut across ministries.
16. The overarching challenge will be solidifying range state
ownership of the GTI. Many NGO observers who have been involved
with the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI, Ref D) see the strong
involvement of regional nations as a possible model for GTI.
Perhaps the thirteen tiger states need to similarly own the Asian
tiger initiative, with GTI, the Global Tiger Fund and other entities
playing a supporting role. The greatest short term threat to
survival is the trade in tigers and their parts, so strengthening
ASEAN and SA WEN will be vital; an OES grant for this year aims to
do that.
JOHN

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