Landmark meeting to safeguard region’s bio resources

By Ifham Nizam

The inauguration of the first Regional Meeting of South Asian Wildlife Enforcement Network (SAWEN) tomorrow’ in Negombo’ would be an important landmark in safeguarding bio resources in the region, Environment Minister Anura Priyadharshana Yapa said.

The first SAWEN meeting will be held with the participation of regional experts.

Yapa told The Island yesterday that he appreciated the timely move as it was extremely necessary for all South Asian countries to get together and help each other to prevent illegal trade of bio resources across their respective country borders.

"Bio piracy or gene piracy is a fast developing threat to our fauna and flora, and this has deprived our intellectual property rights particularly the patent rights. As a result, there is a tremendous loss to our economy as well," he added.

The diversity of Sri Lanka’s fauna and flora was one of the highest in the Asian Region. Many endemic and endangered species lived in our land and in our territorial waters, he said.

Nearly 25 per cent of species are endemic to the country in general, though the rate of endemism is significantly higher in some classes of animals.

"Therefore, Illegal trade of plants, animals and their parts directly contributes to the extinction of species, and some of our rare species found within restricted ranges are much vulnerable to the pressure of trade," he added.

He said that illegal trade was clearly evident during the recent detections carried out by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

"Collection of live and preserved specimen of fauna and illegal export of genetic material has been somewhat frequently reported during the past few months. The highest fine recorded in the history of DWC, for a wildlife crime was levied by a Court last month on some foreigners. Wildlife Officers apprehended them when they were collecting some specimen of amphibians, reptiles and insects inside a National Reserve," he added.

It was also revealed that some renowned intellectuals were acting behind the scene and helping the smugglers to export genetic material from Sri Lanka, he said.

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