Forest protection officers raided 11 restaurants on Tuesday (August 21) in the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, seizing 133 kilograms of bushmeat and 123 live wild animals.
More than 120 forest rangers and environment police officers took part in the five-hour search of restaurants in Da Lat and Bao Loc towns and Lac Duong and Duc Trong districts as part of a campaign throughout Lam Dong to prevent the illegal trade of wildlife in the biodiversity-rich province.
Authorities confiscated bushmeat, frozen carcasses and live animals, including snakes, civets, monitor lizards and pangolins, which were taken to the office of the Lam Dong Forest Protection Department where tests will be conducted on samples to check for diseases.
The raids were organized with the support of the US-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) while the testing will be sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) under the PREDICT project, which identifies emerging infectious diseases that come from wildlife.
Lam Dong's forest protection authorities have raided restaurants illegally selling bushmeat since 2010. They have seized hundreds of kilograms of bushmeat and levied dozens of fines.
"The forest's resources not only belong to us, but to our future generations as well," said Tran Thanh Binh, chief of the provincial Forest Protection Department, who added that illegal wildlife traders face a zero tolerance policy.
"We will not forgive illegal wildlife traders and our actions prove it."
Scott Roberton, the WCS's Vietnam country representative, said the WCS praised the strong actions taken by the Lam Dong forest protection forces in their crackdown on illegal wildlife trade.
He hoped more investigations would be done to detect illegal wildlife traders and the restaurants that purchase their meat.
Although Vietnam's wildlife is currently endangered, he said things would change if more agencies assert the same vigilance as the authorities in Lam Dong Province have.
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