Vietnam to destroy smuggled wildlife products

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Rhino horns weighing more than 13 kilograms (28.6 lbs) seized by Tan Son Nhat Airport Customs from a smuggler on March 10 

Vietnam is considering destroying all of its confiscated wildlife contraband instead of auctioning the items, deputy agriculture minister Ha Cong Tuan said Monday in what has been interpreted as a show of force against the wildlife trafficking industry currently running rampant through his country.

Tuan was speaking at a conference held by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Vietnam CITES Management Authority on strengthening coordination between the governments, NGOs and donor agencies currently battling the illegal trade.

The conference attracted representatives from the embassies of the United States, United Kingdom, China, Switzerland, Thailand, Mozambique and representatives of the German government, the Asian Development Bank, and key central agencies of the Vietnamese government including the Supreme People’s Procuracy, the police and customs.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hailed the event as the nation’s first step toward synergy in minimizing the transnational wildlife crime affecting the nation.

It praised Tuan’s statement about destroying Vietnam’s stockpiles of rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger bones seized in wildlife smuggling busts.

Susan Lieberman, executive director of conservation policy for WCS, said Tuan’s statement “tells the world that there is no place in Vietnam for wildlife trafficking, or the consumption or trade in endangered species such as rhinos.”

She said if the decision is turned into action, it will set a high standard for other governments, and reinforce Vietnam’s commitment to treating wildlife crime as a serious crime.

“In recent years, the international community has recognized that Vietnamese citizens have emerged as key players in global illegal wildlife trade, as traders, transporters, traffickers, and end-consumers for wildlife,” she added.

The threats posed by wildlife trafficking to biodiversity, human health, and security have recently received unprecedented attention at a global level, with a number of governments, including the United States and United Kingdom at the highest levels, launching anti-wildlife trafficking initiatives on global scales.

In Vietnam, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung issued a directive earlier this month to all key ministries prioritizing enforcement at all levels and across ministries to combat poaching and trafficking of African elephant ivory and rhino horn.

In a recent case, Ho Chi Minh City customs authorities said March 12 they had handed over a Vietnamese man and five rhino horns he was suspected of smuggling into the country to police.

According to Tan Son Nhat International Airport customs officers, they found the horns, weighing a total of around 13.1 kilograms and worth some VND15 billion (US$711,000) in all, in the man’s luggage on March 10.

They said the horns came from the African rhinoceros but where not from the location the man had flown in from.

The Ministry of Public Security is investigating.

As a signatory to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Vietnam prohibits the import, export, and trade of African rhino products for commercial purposes. 

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