LOS ANGELES(USFWS)-Federal wildlife officer John Thompson, from the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California’s San Joaquin Valley, travelled to the Taipei Zoo in Taipei, Taiwan to serve as an instructor for the joint Counter Wildlife Trafficking workshop hosted there in May .
The training program was implemented to impact the worldwide illegal wildlife trade. Participants at the three-day workshop represented many local organizations including Taiwan Customs, Quarantine, the Forestry Bureau, the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau, Coast Guard, the National Police Agency, and others.
The two major sponsors of the workshop were World Wildlife Fund (TRAFFIC program) and the Taiwan Forestry Bureau. Thompson was accompanied by two co-instructors; FWS Senior Special Agent Craig Tabor and Department of Interior-International Technical Assistance Program representative Sean Lawlor.
More than 30 people attended the workshop and received instruction in a wide array of topics including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES, permits, inspection, smuggling, concealment and detection, wildlife and plant specimen identification, and case development.
“One of the most rewarding parts of the workshop was the hands-on practice session at the end during which students got to use their newly-acquired skills to work through various CITES wildlife and plant inspection exercises,” Thompson said. “In a role-playing scenario, they even interviewed a suspected wildlife smuggler (with Lawlor playing the part). The scenario included searching the smuggler to find concealed wildlife contraband.”
Thompson said that, ultimately the success of any workshop such as this one is based on feedback from students. He received many handshakes, expressions of gratitude, and interest from students in receiving additional training for both themselves and their colleagues.
“People in Taiwan and beyond share the common goal of wildlife conservation. We all have a part in this important work,” he said.
Thompson added that he was honored to share knowledge and skills with his colleagues halfway around the world that will help them in their work to counter wildlife trafficking.