TV channel told to remove film on "wildlife delicacy'

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Lam Dong authorities and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in Vietnam have strongly protested the broadcasting of a documentary promoting illegal wildlife meat consumption in Vietnam as a delicacy by the US Travel Channel.

Tran Xuan Viet, program officer with the WCS Vietnam said they would officially demand that the television channel to remove the film from its website and not re-broadcast it.

"We have contacted the Director of the Channel in the US and would encourage all Vietnamese citizens to contact the channel through their website" he told Thanh Nien Weekly on the phone June 8. The program's site can be found at www.travelchannel.com/TV_Shows/Anthony_Bourdain

According to WCS, the documentary titled "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" aimed to introduce culture, tourist spots and food in Lam Dong Province's resort town of Da Lat in the Central Highlands, and describes the meat of the Javan mouse deer (Tagulus javanicus) as a traditional specialty.

It can be seen quite clearly in the documentary that an eatery is serving wildlife meat and two people in the film crew are eating mouse deer meat, Viet said. The documentary was also posted on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeOei7OphcE.

Viet said mouse deer belongs to Group IIB of Decree 32/2006/ND-CP that means no wild individuals can be hunted or sold for commercial purposes. Only registered traders are allowed to sell its meat and violators are punishable by fines of up to VND500 million (US$26,000), he added.

"The Travel Channel's introduction of wildlife meat could have a bad impact on ongoing wildlife conservation activities in Vietnam. They have encouraged both locals and foreign tourists to consume the meat of endangered wildlife species as a delicacy in Da Lat".

"This would increase difficulties for involved agencies in inspecting and preventing wildlife crimes, reduce the number of individuals of wildlife species and promote the illegal hunting and trading of wildlife," he said.

On June 8, Lam Dong Forest Protection officers raided the Thu Khoi eatery in the province's Lac Duong District after identifying it to be the one in the documentary and found the eatery illegally selling wildlife meat.

The officers confiscated two Asiatic brush-tailed porcupines (Atherurus macrourus) weighing 1.2 kilograms in total, 4.8 kilograms of wild boar meat and ten kilograms of other meat that had been partially processed.

Nearly 50 kilograms of frozen meat were later found at another facility of the eatery that the owner, Thu, claimed to be horse meat that she used to fake deer meat. Local law enforcement officers are investigating to find out if it is wildlife meat or not.

This is the second case of wildlife crimes over the past weeks in Lam Dong Province. A rare Javan rhino was found dead in the central highlands of Vietnam on April 29 and it was very likely shot by poachers and further investigations is underway. On May 27, local people in the southern province of Dong Nai found a baby elephant weighing one ton dead in a mango garden. The three-year-old animal was found lying some 100 meters away from the forest of Vinh Cuu Nature and Heritage Reserve in Phu Ly Commune.

Related agencies have taken samples for investigations into the animal's death. It was the seventh elephant to be found dead in Dong Nai province over the past year.

A recent survey of 2000 Ha Noi residents conducted by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network demonstrated that consumption of wild animal products is not only widely prevalent, but also generally accepted among a large portion of the population, despite past awareness-raising efforts and the enactment of legislation to protect particular threatened species.

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