In 5 years, not a single person behind tons of wildlife trafficking has been caught

May 10, 2022

From 2018 until now, not a single person behind the “huge” wildlife trade network in the seaport has been brought to trial and prosecuted for criminal liability.

On May 10, Education for Nature in Vietnam (ENV) held a seminar on the topic “Handling wildlife crimes in Vietnam: Achievements and challenges” in Ho Chi Minh City.

10 urgent actions

According to ENV, Ho Chi Minh City is one of the localities that recorded the largest violation of wildlife consumption all over Vietnam.

This is a place with a large seaport and international airport, hence making it a favorable geographical position to illegally transport wildlife from other countries to Vietnam.

Tens of tons of ivory, rhino horn, pangolin scales… are caught every year. Photo by ENV

Although the authorities have enforced stricter action against wildlife crimes in the area over the years, the effect has not been felt as expected. Therefore, it is mandatory to pay attention and invest more resources to be able to thoroughly handle wildlife violations in the city as well as stop criminal networks from illegal wildlife transport.

Accordingly, ENV recommended 10 urgent actions to prevent illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam. These include: Strictly punish those who lead illegal wildlife trade networks; Strengthen the management of conservation facilities or ones raising endangered, precious and rare wildlife for non-commercial purposes; Eliminate acts of corruption (granting licenses to establish commercial wildlife farming to act as a legal cover for wildlife smuggling activities, bribing at customs gates, using money to mitigate penalties…); Completely put an end to bear farming and confinement in Vietnam; Improve the effectiveness of deterrence and prevention of wildlife crimes; Strictly regulate and manage the operation of wildlife farming facilities for commercial purposes; Control the risk of future pandemic outbreaks due to wildlife consumption and trade; Reinforce the responsibility of local authorities in handling wildlife violations; Strictly ban any forms of trading endangered, precious and rare wildlife are; Strengthen the fight against wildlife crimes on the Internet.

Pangolins were caught for sale in Bao Loc, Lam Dong. Photo by V.L

ENV statistics show that, in the past 5 years, there have been 9,239 wildlife violations in Vietnam, including nearly 25,000 individual violations, ranging from less serious violations such as keeping wildlife animals as pets or advertising products made from ivory on the Internet, to seizures of large quantities of rhino horn, pangolin scales, tigers and other wildlife or products of high value.

Currently, the 2015 Penal Code, amended and supplemented in 2017, has implemented many tough measures against wildlife crimes. Instead of the maximum fine of 500 million dong and 7 years in prison, the new law stipulates a maximum fine of 2 billion and a maximum prison term of 15 years… But many people turn a blind eye to this because of short term profits.

In our country, the maximum sentence related to wildlife is 14 years in prison. This is the sentence for Do Minh Toan for illegally smuggling 55 pieces of rhino horn weighing 126.5 kg from Dubai to Vietnam via Noi Bai international airport.

Big question left about those behind the huge network

In Ho Chi Minh City, from 2018 to the end of March 2022, only 16 cases were brought to trial, including 10 cases with perpetrators receiving prison sentences and the declared prison sentence of 486 months.

ENV said that from 2018 to now, 42,369 kg of pangolin scales and 15,785 kg of ivory have been discovered in seaports.

Out of those numbers, in October 2021 alone, the authorities discovered and confiscated 56.3kg of tiger bones, 17kg of lion bones, 0.5kg of bear hooves, 505kg of dried seahorses, 6.5kg of bear fangs and many other wildlife products at Cat Lai port (HCMC). On January 11, 2022, 456kg of ivory and 6.2 tons of pangolin scales smuggled from Nigeria were discovered at Tien Sa port, Da Nang City.

Many of those transporting, trading and possessing wild animals have been arrested, but the “big bosses” behind them are still in the dark. Photo: ENV

However, it is worth mentioning that none of the subjects behind the arrests of a “huge” amount of wildlife at seaports from 2018 till now have been brought to trial and examined for criminal liability.

“A consignment must go through many stages to get to Vietnam. However, no one behind these shipments has ever been brought to trial. This is a big problem that the authorities need to pay attention to, and make more efforts to investigate both domestically and internationally to handle it” – EVN representative emphasized.

Talking to Dan Viet, Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, Deputy Director of ENV, elaborated on actions to take.It is essential to focus on three strategic areas of activity: coordinating with policy makers to strengthen institutions, bridge legal gaps and encourage effective implementation of wildlife protection policies. In addition, it’s vital to strengthen law enforcement efforts by directly assisting authorities in preventing and combating wildlife violations, reduce demand for wildlife products through long-term, sustainable campaigns which influence public awareness and encourage people to participate in wildlife protection by reporting relevant violations.

For customers, who consume wildlife products, Ms. Dung said that ENV is currently making efforts to communicate, propagate and encourage people not to consume and use products from wild animals. People’s awareness is a very important factor, but at present, many people are not aware of this.

During the process of collecting opinions from people in Buon Ma Thuot about the consumption of wildlife products such as jewelry made of fangs, claws, or ivory, most of the responders don’t feel like it’s a big deal. In their opinion, these products are made using elephants in Africa, not elephants in Dak Lak. This means they are not aware that using ivory products is indirectly killing elephants in Africa.

“Awareness is an indispensable condition, but ENV’s orientation needs to aim at a more urgent and impactful aspect which is law enforcement. We need a policy institution to apply that,” Ms. Dung said.

According to the leader, in the near future, ENV will broadcast a film to talk about issues related to people consuming products from wildlife, such as people going to restaurants to eat “specialties” from wildlife, buying products from wildlife such as tiger fangs, ivory, pangolin scales…

ENV also hopes that the relevant authorities will have appropriate policies and apply sanctions against the act of using products from wildlife.

Source: Dan Viet


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