Vietnam, one of Asia’s biggest consumers of wildlife products, has suspended all imports of wild animals and vowed to eliminate illegal markets across the country.
“The prime minister orders the suspension of imports of wildlife, dead or alive, their eggs, parts or derivatives,” said the order released Thursday on the government’s website. “All citizens must not participate in illegal poaching, buying, selling, transporting, of illegal wildlife.”
The directive follows after an international scandal over the sale of wildlife, which has been blamed as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic in neighboring China.
In February, 14 conservation organizations in Vietnam sent a joint letter urging the government to “identify and close markets and other locations where illegal wildlife is on sale”.
The directive bans imports of live wild animals and wildlife products, eliminates wildlife markets, and enforce prohibitions on illegal hunting and trading of wild animals, including online sales, according to the statement.
Among the most frequently smuggled animal goods are tiger parts, rhino horns and pangolins used in traditional medicine. Despite popular demand, there is no scientific evidence of their health benefits in humans.
The country will also “resolutely eliminate market and trading websites which trade wildlife illegally”, the order said, warning of a crackdown on the poaching, trafficking, storing and advertising of animals, birds and reptiles.
While the directive is likely to be welcomed by conservation organizations, one group said it did not go far enough.
“The wildlife consumption ban mentioned in the directive is insufficient as some uses of wildlife such as medicinal use or wild animals being kept as pets are not covered,” said Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. “It would be better to have a clear and detailed list of the various uses of wildlife that are prohibited.”
Conservationists also warned that enforcement will be a challenge across a country with long unsecured borders and poorly paid officials who can be bribed with cash.
We’re talked to Thai Nguyen, director of the animal welfare foundation Save Vietnam’s Wildlife a week after the vow to ban illegal wildlife trade was announced.