A restaurant engaged in advertising the flesh of an endangered water monitor lizard was only fined VND750,000 (US$35) by reluctant local officials.
The Ha Chi 1 restaurant had caged and openly displayed the nominally protected lizard on the sidewalk for many days advertising its price as VND700,000 ($33) a kilogram.
Restaurant staff in the resort town of Tam Dao (just outside its namesake national park) said the lizard was trapped in the nearby jungle.
Vinh Phuc Province authorities stepped in on May 29 after a Lao Dong reporter asked the NGO Education for Nature-Vietnam to push them into action.
A squad of police officers and forest rangers went to the restaurant and seized the 4.2 kilogram while the restaurant owner loudly demanded official identification cards.
An ENV representative told Lao Dong that the animal was returned, the following day, after the restaurant produced a legal bill of sale.
Vietnam’s conservation policies list water monitor among animals whose commercial trade must be limited.
The restaurant was only fined for not informing officials that the animal had been included on its menu, according to the ENV source.
Scores of illegally captured wild animals are displayed in cages throughout Tam Dao without official intervention.
Cages packed with turtles, lizards and bamboo rats line several streets.
The sellers say the animals were all trapped from the jungle.
Wild squirrels, deer, lizards, civets are also listed on local menus.
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