Vietnam looks to curb web trade in wildlife

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Experts stressed the need for increased cooperation between website administrators and law enforcement authorities at the first-ever conference in Vietnam on curbing the illegal trade of wild animals on the internet.

The conference, held Wednesday in Hanoi, was co-host by the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Vietnam office of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Several other international conservation groups and Vietnamese government agencies and website administrators also attended.

A survey undertaken by WCS Vietnam between last July and August showed that 33 sites, including seven forums (agriviet.com, yeuthucung.com and otofun.net), one social network page (Facebook), 14 online trading websites (muaban.com.vn, rongbay.com, vatgia.com) and 11 personal and corporate websites were used to trade wildlife and wildlife products.

It also found that a total 108 species, 24 percent of which are protected under Vietnamese law, 24 percent protected from international trade under CITES, and another 17.6 percent including tigers,  elephants, elongated tortoises and crocodiles threatened worldwide, were being sold online in the country. 

According to WCS, the animals and their parts, 67 percent of which are domestic species, are used as pets and for medicine, food,  breeding, decorations and some personal stuff.

"The outbreak of wildlife trade on the internet will substitute for the traditional trading method, and give rigged trade chances to develop," the Vietnam Forum of Environmental Jouralists (VFEJ) quoted Do Quang Tung, director of the CITES office in Vietnam as saying at the conference.

Scott Roberton, country director of WCS in Vietnam, said that online wildlife trade has been around in Vietnam for a long time but awareness of it was low. He said this activity was strictly controlled worldwide.

WCS proposed at the conference that content management of the trading websites and forums be enhanced.

Administrators should consider putting regulations on wildlife conservation on their sites and keep themselves informed of wildlife trade developments, the group said.

It also said that cooperation for wildlife protection between website administrators and law enforcement authorities should be increased.  

Vietnam, which last July objected to the WWF ranking it among the worst 23 African and Asian countries in terms of wildlife protection, given high levels of poaching and trading in ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts, has since taken several steps to deal with the illegal trade in wildlife products, conservationists say.

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