Traditional medicine students and lecturers work to discourage prescription of illegal wildlife products
Hanoi, Viet Nam, 29th May 2018—Students, lecturers, and faculty staff from five of Viet Nam’s traditional medicine (TM) universities developed communications strategies to combat the use of illegal wildlife products in traditional medicinal treatments as part of a two-day workshop that concluded today in Cuc Phuong National Park.
Thirty students and lecturers from Tue Tinh Medical College, Thanh Tay University, Pham Ngoc Thach Medical University, Hanoi Medical University, and Hanoi Medical College joined the workshop, which was organised by TRAFFIC and the Viet Nam Oriental Traditional Medicine Association (VOTMA) as part of their efforts to reduce demand for illegal wildlife products.
We are committed to ensuring that traditional medicine continues to be practiced in Viet Nam in accordance with the law and sustainable principles. As the tide turns against the use of illegal fauna and flora as ingredients in traditional treatments, we are working to leave a positive legacy that will endure as part of our heritage
Mr. Tran Xuyen Nguyen, Chairman of Professionalism Department, Viet Nam Oriental Traditional Medicine Association
The workshop provided attendees with up to date information on the state of illicit wildlife trade in Viet Nam in sessions held with representatives from TRAFFIC and the CITES Management Authority. The event also included a session from VOTMA debunking unscientific beliefs surrounding the medicinal properties of illegal wildlife, particularly rhino horns, tiger bones, and pangolin scales. Discussions were held on alternatives that have proven benefits and can be legally sourced.
The lecturers and students were given communications guidelines and suggestions of activities to help them form effective strategies to deter the use of illegal wildlife products in formal prescriptions by TM practitioners and dispensaries to customers. The students and lecturers worked together to develop action plans that could be implemented in their respective universities. TRAFFIC and the VOTMA challenged each participant to pass on the message to more than 1,000 of their classmates and colleagues.
As a successful model of a communications initiative, Nguyen Van Thai, director from the Vietnamese NGO Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, led a session on how community engagement can be used to raise awareness and promote social behavioural change, using its conservation efforts for the pangolin as an example.
The workshop builds on recent research findings which have identified the TM sector as a priority sector in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. It is hoped that through sessions like this one, future TM practitioners can promote legal, sustainable, and socially responsible practices for sourcing and prescriptions.
To aid them in this task, TRAFFIC designed a purpose-built toolkit that was disseminated at the workshop. The kit contains a guide focusing on eliminating the use of threatened species in TM by providing suggestions for sustainable alternatives.
The toolkit also contains important updates on Viet Nam’s penal code with regards to wildlife crime. On 1st January 2018, poaching, killing, captive breeding, transporting, trading, storing, and consuming illegal wildlife became punishable by 15 years of imprisonment or a fine of up to VND15 billion (USD660,000). The toolkit also features a design for a banner to be used at events and a pledge that students and practitioners can sign publicly to declare that they will not prescribe medicine containing illegal wildlife.
“Traditional medicine practitioners and students have an important role to play as champions of best practices with their peers and associates, and this toolkit helps frame a zero-tolerance approach to endangered wildlife use in traditional medicine,” said Sarah Ferguson, head of TRAFFIC’s Viet Nam office.
“With the new penal code and Viet Nam’s increased law enforcement efforts, it is critical that the provision of healthcare through the sector is practiced in a legal, sustainable way to ensure the reputation of practitioners remains in high regard in Viet Nam.”
The workshop was funded by WWF Germany.