Vietnam a major transit point for wildlife smuggling

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Between 4,000 and 4,500 tons of wildlife are transited in Vietnam a year as they are smuggled into China, the Anti-Environmental Crimes Department said at a conference Tuesday (December 21)in Hanoi.


The wildlife, mainly primates, pangolins, snakes and elephant tusks among others, came from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, said the department which functions under the Ministry of Public Security.


Since 2005 the department has busted 14 cases of illegal import of wildlife at the Hai Phong seaport, confiscating 13.5 tons of elephant tusks and more than 30 tons of turtle meat and shells among others, it said.


Nguyen Viet Tien, deputy chief of Hanoi's anti-environmental crimes division, said more than 200 restaurants and hotels in the capital were found promoting wildlife products.


Currently police are pursuing 40 people suspected of illegally trading in wildlife, the conference heard.


In other news, Bui Cach Tuyen, deputy minister of Natural Resources and Environment, warned at a conference on the national biodiversity project between 2007 and 2010 that Vietnam was losing its ecological balance.


The area of important natural ecosystems has decreased strongly, as have the population and species of wildlife, he said.


Pham Anh Cuong, deputy chief of Biodiversity Preservation Department, said as of this year-end, Vietnam has 13.39 million hectares of forests, accounting for 39.5 percent its total area.


This is far from the national project's target of between 42-43 percent, he said.


Vietnam includes plantations in its forest area estimates.


Upstream provinces need forest coverage of at least 68-70 percent to prevent floods and erosion, but it's just 40-50 percent at present, and this has caused increased flooding and worsened the impact of floods as well, Cuong said.


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