China, Vietnam, Laos are hotspots for the criminal wildlife trade: does Asia really care about biodiversity?

Pangolin scales at US$160 a kilogram, monkeys and wild cats for sale – the online trade in protected and rare species is thriving in Laos, a key Southeast Asian gateway to the insatiable Chinese and Vietnamese markets for animal products.

As world leaders gather in Egypt for the COP27 conference to address the climate crisis – and fringe events discuss the entwined conservation questions surrounding biodiversity – Asia’s internet remains a bustling marketplace for the wildlife trade.

Laos, which borders both China and Vietnam, is already an arterial route for the multibillion-dollar illegal trade in smuggled rhinoceros horn, tiger parts, ivory and pangolin.

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Aidan Jones