Viet Nam to join world leaders in tackling wildlife crime
WWF and TRAFFIC hope that government delegates attending the London Conference will endorse and formally adopt a London Conference Declaration representing a statement of political commitment to address the rampant illegal poaching and trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
Issues under discussion will cover the approaches currently being used to address the crisis, including improvements to law enforcement and the role of the criminal justice system; ways to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products; and how to support the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods to wildlife crime.
Viet Nam has become a destination for rhino horn, which has gained popularity in recent years as a status symbol and health tonic. High demand from Viet Nam and China has resulted in poaching of rhinos, particularly in South Africa, where a record 1004 were illegally killed in 2013. Viet Nam suffered the loss of its only rhino population—a unique subspecies of Javan Rhino that survived in tiny numbers in Cat Tien National Park, in 2010 when the last animal was found shot dead.
"A high level Vietnamese delegation at the London conference will create a major global impression regarding the commitment of the government of Viet Nam to cracking down on illegal wildlife trade” said Seng Teak Conservation Director for WWF Greater Mekong. “Viet Nam should treat its attendance at the Conference as an opportunity to outline what action the nation is taking to reduce demand for rhino horn and how it has boosted its law enforcement efforts against those involved in rhino horn trafficking,” added Mr Seng.
“While a clear declaration of political commitment by government representatives at the Conference would be very welcome, it needs to be accompanied by a clear description of what action will to be taken and by whom, and most importantly, where the financial, human and technical resources to support it are coming from,” said Dr Naomi Doak, Co-ordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme.
In late December 2012, Viet Nam signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Africa on tackling wildlife trafficking between the two nations and later developed a joint Rhino Action Plan.
“High level agreements and statements have to translate into meaningful action, such as significant arrests and prosecutions of those orchestrating the rhino horn trafficking at both ends of the trade chain, as well as efforts to reduce the demand for rhino horn which is the driving force behind the poaching,” said Dr Doak.
In Viet Nam, TRAFFIC and WWF are working to address the underlying drivers of demand for rhino horn including activities with the Traditional Medicine Administration within the Ministry of Health to ensure traditional medicine practitioners are aware of the situation facing the world’s rhinos.
"As an important agency in the government of Viet Nam and as the Ministry in charge of the management of traditional medicine, we have been and will continue to cooperate with relevant law enforcement agencies to implement the regulations and requirements of both Viet Nam and the international conventions signed by the government to protect the worlds threatened wildlife. We are working to do this through awareness raising and revising traditional medicine documents”, said Ass Prof., Dr Pham Vu Khanh, Director of the Traditional Medicine Administration of the Ministry of Health.
"The Traditional Medicine Administration has always taken a strong stance against the use of endangered wildlife in the practice of traditional medicine in Viet Nam and the administration believes that we have an important role to play in addressing use of rhino horn and we will continue to assist in efforts to combat its use and the current poaching crisis” added Ass Prof. Dr Khanh.
The London Conference takes place on 12th and 13th February and is hosted by the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson. WWF-UK president, HRH The Prince of Wales and his son HRH The Duke of Cambridge, members of the UK Royal family will also attend London Conference events.