Vietnam will tighten its control over the importation of rhino horns as hunting trophies in an effort to suppress the illegal trade of rhino horns, Tien Phong quoted the agriculture ministry as saying on Tuesday.
In one of the measures, the local authority that manages the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to which Vietnam is a signatory, will draft regulations on managing rhino horn trophies hunted in and imported from South Africa.
Vietnam will also join hands with TRACE, an international NGO that promotes the use of forensic science in biodiversity conservation and the investigation of wildlife crimes, to build a wildlife forensic laboratory between now and next year.
One function of the lab will be to provide DNA samples that will be used to build a database of the rhino horns imported into Vietnam, Tien Phong reported.
At an international meeting on wildlife conservation in Bangkok held from March 3-14, international conservation groups urged Vietnam to upgrade its efforts to crack down on the illegal trade of rhino horns, or else likely face trade sanctions.
Vietnamese representatives pledged that they would do their best, but also said that the country has yet to receive any support from the CITES secretariat in the fight against rhino horn trafficking or the management of horn trophies, Tien Phong reported.
Vietnam asked for help from the secretariat last September, it said.
The country has also received very little support from other conservation groups, according to the news report.
According to CITES figures on export and import permits, 657 rhino horns were legally imported from South Africa into Vietnam as hunting trophies between 2003 and 2010.
But only 170 horns were recorded by Vietnamese authorities, meaning the remaining horns, whose value for the purpose of import taxes has been estimated at US$2 million, were not declared.
Rhino horn trophies are not allowed to be traded, and are subject to taxes equal to 3 percent of a horn's value. Rhino horns are valued at US$25,000 per kilogram.
Naomi Doak, Coordinator of TRAFFIC's Southeast AsiaGreater Mekong Program, was quoted as saying that although 90 percent of rhino horns hunted in South Africa were reportedly imported to Vietnam, it is unknown how many of them remain in the country.
However, it has been estimated that 70 percent of the horns are in Vietnam, Doak said.
In May of last year, South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs stopped issuing licenses to Vietnamese hunters. It was reported that over 180 Vietnamese out of the 384 licensed hunters from around the world, had undertaken 400 illegal rhino hunting trips in that country since July 2009.
In an attempt to lessen rhino hunting, South Africa restricts each hunter to one hunting trip per year. The hunts are closely observed, with each horn trophy receiving an electronic tracking chip and having DNA samples taken from it and entered in a database.