ST journalists produce film on illegal wildlife trade

An Asiatic black bear caged in a village in Vietnam, where its bile is believed to help cure joint pains. A short film produced by two ST journalists uncovers the dark underbelly of South-east Asia's illegal wildlife trade.
An Asiatic black bear caged in a village in Vietnam, where its bile is believed to help cure joint pains. A short film produced by two ST journalists uncovers the dark underbelly of South-east Asia's illegal wildlife trade.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Two Straits Times journalists went undercover for a difficult and potentially dangerous assignment spanning three countries known to be illegal wildlife trafficking hot spots.

Today, a short film that they produced on South-east Asia's illegal wildlife trade will be screened at 4.15pm at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands.

The film uncovers the dark underbelly of the region's animal trade as the two journalists visited Laos, Vietnam and Indonesia earlier this year.

There are scenes of tigers and bears being sold at a notorious illegal animal trading supermarket in Laos, and of bear bile and pangolin scales being hawked in broad daylight on the streets of Hanoi.

Bear bile is used to treat liver problems while pangolin scales are consumed for their supposed medicinal properties.

The film is being screened as part of the four-day Singapore Eco Film Festival, which ends tomorrow.

STRONGLY AGAINST THE TRADE

I've always felt very strongly about the illegal wildlife trade and the cruelty involved in it, especially when there are alternatives in modern medicine that do not involve cruelty, and are cheaper and more reliable.

THE STRAITS TIMES' ENVIRONMENT CORRESPONDENT AUDREY TAN, on the motivation behind the short film.

The festival, which is open to the public for free, brings together eco organisations and storytellers. It celebrates milestones in environmental conservation and adds to efforts to get people fired up about protecting the environment.

More action, too, is needed to stem the global illegal wildlife trade, which is estimated to be worth up to US$23 billion (S$32 billion) a year.

ST environment correspondent Audrey Tan, who undertook the trip with photojournalist Lim Yaohui, said the illegal wildlife trade stems partly from the desire for exotic animals to feed appetites for traditional medicine and hunting trophies.

"I've always felt very strongly about the illegal wildlife trade and the cruelty involved in it, especially when there are alternatives in modern medicine that do not involve cruelty, and are cheaper and more reliable," said Ms Tan, when asked about the motivation behind the short film.

"Through my reporting experience in Singapore, and conversations with friends and family, I felt many people do not think it is an issue worth tackling," she added.

"Most people immediately think of animals far away, like rhinos and elephants in Africa, when a lot of the hunting and killing of wild animals takes place just a few hours away from Singapore."

She noted that while the demand for animal parts and products here may not be as high as that in other Asian countries, Singapore remains a major trans-shipment hub for them.

 

Dr Adeline Seah, co-founder and festival director of the film festival, lauded the duo. "What stands out is that they (the journalists) went undercover, and it was great to see this kind of bravery," she said.

"Singapore has been pointed out as a major transit hub in the illegal wildlife trade, and I was really glad to see that The Straits Times has produced this investigative short on the topic."

The short film is the first passion project by Straits Times journalists, who are given time off to work on the assignment.

A panel discussion on the Future Of Wildlife will be held at 6pm. Panellists include Dr Madhu Rao of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Singapore, Dr Jessica Lee of Wildlife Reserves Singapore, and Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society.

Those interested can go to www.sgeff.com/schedule to find out about other films being screened.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2018, with the headline 'ST journalists produce film on illegal wildlife trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe