Published 4 March 2014

Viet Nam Prime Minister orders action on wildlife crime

Hanoi, 4th March 2014—Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has issued a top-level Directive to his line ministries prioritizing enforcement at all levels, and across ministries, to combat poaching and trafficking of African elephant ivory and rhino horn. 

Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Viet Nam. © World Economic Forum / Creative Commons

The Directive highlights that the Vietnamese Government recognizes wildlife crime not only as an environmental threat, but also as a threat to the country’s economy, national security, public health and international relationships. 

The Directive underpins the Prime Minister’s commitment to halting illegal wildlife trade in Viet Nam and his government’s endorsement of the London Declaration made at the recent Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade hosted by the UK Government. 

Among the key requests of the Directive are a strong judiciary response to prosecute those convicted of the sale and transport of rhino horn, ivory and other wildlife specimens; the deployment of inter-agency teams at border gates to detect and prevent smuggling of wildlife across Vietnam’s border; central agencies to co-ordinate investigations into trafficking syndicates; and education and mass media reporting on regulations on wildlife trade. 

The Directive also leads the way for establishing a centralized stockpile of ivory and rhino horn, requiring agencies to transfer seized wildlife specimens on the CITES appendices to the Viet Nam CITES Management Authority,  rather than the current system of seized wildlife specimens being held at the district and provincial level across the country with no system of inventory. 

The Directive also acknowledges the need to collaborate with non-governmental organizations in order for Viet Nam to meet its national and international commitments to tackling illegal wildlife trade. WWF, TRAFFIC, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Humane Society International (HSI) all welcome the Directive and the strong message it sends to Government agencies to work collaboratively to stem illegal wildlife trade in Viet Nam and to support Viet Nam’s conservation commitments. 

“Viet Nam is willing to cooperate with all CITES Member States and international organizations to develop a long-term and comprehensive vision to eradicate cross-border illegal wildlife trade via appropriate measures that ensure the harmonization between conservation and sustainable development with the active engagement of all sectors,” said Dr Ha Cong Tuan, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and Chairman of Viet Nam’s National Steering Committee for Wildlife Law Enforcement Network (Viet Nam- WEN).

“This commitment from the highest political level is a turning point for this issue to be addressed in Viet Nam,” said Ms Elisabeth McLellan, Co-Lead, Global Wildlife Trade Campaign, WWF International. “The Prime Minister is sending a clear signal to his Government and citizens that illegal wildlife trade in elephant ivory, rhino horn and other products will not be tolerated.”

“Rhino poaching is a burning conservation issue which is pushing wildlife populations to the brink of extinction, with thousands of elephants and rhinos being slaughtered each year to meet demand for illegal wildlife products,” said Dr Van Ngoc Thinh, WWF-Vietnam’s Country Director. “WWF is committed to working closely with the Government of Viet Nam and other NGOs to combat illegal trade in wildlife and associated products.” 

“In the long term, illicit wildlife trade can only be tackled effectively if the demand for illegal wildlife products is also reduced,” said Dr Naomi Doak of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Programme. “Therefore, there is an urgent need for well-researched, evidence-based campaigns involving government agencies that are aimed at reducing demand, and using strategies targeted at consumers that result in behaviour change. The Directive provides the strong political commitment to implement such campaigns and comes at a time when the world is realizing the scale and seriousness of illegal wildlife trade.”

Dr Scott Roberton, Country Representative for the Wildlife Conservation Society added, “This Directive is important, it is the top-level call to combat wildlife trafficking that Viet Nam agencies needed. We hope the Directive provides the vital connection between the growing political interest within parts of the Viet Nam Government in wildlife crimes and the implementation of effective actions against the illegal wildlife trade. WCS will continue working with our national partners in law enforcement to assist Viet Nam in implementation of the Directive”

Conservation and animal protection organisations working in Viet Nam including WWF, TRAFFIC, WCS, HSI and other NGOs have called on people in Viet Nam to say no to illegal wildlife products, in particular to support efforts to tackle the escalating demand for rhino horn. The organizations are working closely with the government to implement awareness raising activities and support the implementation of the Directive through strengthening law enforcement and legislation in regard to illegal wildlife trade. Strong action is critical to ensure the Prime Minister’s Directive is implemented.

“Over the past seven months, our rhino horn demand reduction campaign has reached an estimated ten million people in Viet Nam,” said Teresa Telecky, Director of the Wildlife Department with Humane Society International. “We are pleased to be working closely with the CITES Management Authority of Viet Nam on this important project that ultimately will reduce rhino poaching and help ensure the survival of rhinos.”