Wildlife Crime Teams Commemorate Anniversary of Vietnam’s Last Rhino with Raids of Offending Restaurants
Enforcement effort finds illegal wildlife still rampant in city of Da Lat
WCS surveys showed that illegal wildlife was still being sold
NEW YORK (May 3, 2011)—The Wildlife Conservation Society announced today a series of successful restaurant raids by Vietnamese enforcement teams throughout the city of Da Lat, the latest action in Vietnam’s ongoing effort to eradicate the sale of illegal wildlife within its borders.
The Lam Dong Forest Protection Department (FPD) carried out its latest wave of raids in Da Lat exactly one year after the demise of Vietnam’s last known rhino—found dead in Cat Tien National Park in May of 2010—as a way to illustrate its commitment to eradicate wildlife crimes.
FPD teams carried out raids on 27 restaurants and one souvenir shop across Da Lat (the capital city of Lam Dong province in southern Vietnam), seizing 88 kilograms (approximately 194 pounds) of wild meat in the process. The seizures included entire or partial specimens of wild pig, porcupine, sambar deer, mouse deer, bamboo rats, snakes, civets, and pangolin.
Other animal parts confiscated included mounted horns and antlers of gaur (a wild cattle species), Eld’s deer, and serow (a goat-like animal), along with stuffed gibbons and douc langur (a type of monkey). The raid teams also seized over 100 live animals including bamboo rats, wild doves, monitor lizards, jungle fowl, pheasants, ferret badgers, masked palm civets, and brush-tailed porcupines.
The raids follow survey results by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) that found 84 percent (57 out of 68) of restaurants in Da Lat were serving wildlife including those fined last August in Lam Dong’s biggest raid.
“We applaud the efforts of the Lam Dong Forest Protection Department to stop the illegal sale of wildlife, but the impact of these seizures to stop wildlife criminals in Da Lat is limited by the lack of effective punishment,” said Dr. Scott Roberton, WCS Vietnam Country Representative. “We urge the authorities to revoke business licenses for any repeat offenders. This will ensure that the risk of serving wildlife outweighs the potential profit.”
Mr. Vo Giang Tuyen, Vice-head of Lam Dong Forest Protection Department, said: “We have a clear message: Da Lat does not tolerate anyone selling wildlife illegally. A two-strike rule for restaurants would send the right message. If the provincial authorities won’t close these restaurants down, FPD will have to keep checking and issuing fines until they stop serving wildlife illegally, which takes a significant amount of both human and financial resources.”
In recent years, Vietnam has made a number of large wildlife seizures, but relatively few criminals in these cases have received strict punishments and almost none the maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. For instance, the biggest offender ensnared in a raid last August—Tu Loan Restaurant and Zoo—is still under investigation by police and prosecutors. The restaurant has since reopened and is once again selling illegal wildlife to customers.
Mr Do Quang Tung, Vice-head of the CITES Management Authority of Vietnam, stated: “Strong punishment against wildlife crimes is a critical measure for enforcing regulations on protecting endangered wildlife.”
Joe Walston, WCS director for Asia Programs, said: “Illegal trade continues to loom as the largest single threat to wildlife in Asia. Strict enforcement of existing laws – including strong sentencing – is crucial to stemming this crisis.”
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