Corruption along the Vietnam-China Border Permits Massive Wildlife Smuggling

August 8, 2013

Scott Roberton, representative of WCS’s Vietnam Program, describes the country’s vast wildlife trade that is driving many species to extinction, as well as the progress being made to combat it.

Stashed in the hidden compartments of container trucks, or concealed among waste plastic, seafood, and other products, live animals and animal parts traverse the globe. The cargo that gets unloaded into rickety boats on the Vietnam side of the Ka Long River includes wild tigers, elephant tusks, pangolins, rhino horns, and wild turtles. These threatened species, many still tenuously alive, don't have far to float—just ten meters across the river and into China to satisfy one of the world's largest demand markets for wildlife products.

I have seen this firsthand. In collaboration with local partners, the Wildlife Conservation Society's Vietnam program conducted hundreds of hours of surveys of trade in all products along the Ka Long River in Mong Cai City between October 2011 and January 2012. Our analysis found that over 90 percent of all products (both legal and illegal) traded in Mong Cai between Vietnam and China are passing through illegal crossings. In just those three months we witnessed close to 17,000 vehicles making nearly 34,000 shipments to and from China.

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