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On January 20, 2012, the people in Chieng Bang village, in Son La province were in turmoil upon hearing of an unusual bird being caught. The bird was identified as a Himalayan Griffon Vulture (Gyps himalayensis), and it weighed 7.5 kilograms, with a wingspan width of 2.8 meters and a body length of 0.7 meters.
On February 3rd, after receiving information concerning the incident, ENV passed it on to the local authorities. Soon after, the local Forest Protection Department (FPD) examined the bird and temporarily seized it. On February 14th, following a joint operation between ENV, Soc Son Rescue Centre staff and a bird expert, the vulture was transferred safely to Soc Son Wildlife Rescue Center.
The successful transfer of the Himalayan griffon vulture resulted from not only the strong effort of functional forces (namely Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and People’s Committee of Son La province) but also from the sense of the law of the local people. It was the first time an unusual bird, which symbolizes the auspiciousness, has appeared in the region, and therefore the local people wanted to keep it for tourism and potentially breeding. However, after acknowledging that it was a violation of the law to capture wildlife, they agreed to transfer the vulture to the authorities.
Take a look back to an incident concerning an Asiatic soft-shell turtle (Amyda cartilaginea) that was caught by a fisherman from Hanoi in October 2011. Catching an extraordinary and “up-market” animal seemed like particularly good luck to him, and he decided to sell it to Chinese merchants only a few days later. Unfortunately this animal, which is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN’s red list of threatened species, and is also protected within Vietnam, is not only illegal to catch and keep, but illegal to sell. The fisherman had been informed how precious this species is to Vietnam, the laws in place to protect an animal of this kind and also the punishments for breaking said laws. Yet, he chose to put his personal interest above the law. He even blamed authorities for not making a great effort to rescue the turtle, implying that he wanted to sell it to them. The authorities refused the purchase, and he claimed that he was “forced” to sell the animal to the Chinese.
From these two cases, it is noticeable that the fair and serious implementation of Vietnamese law depends not only on the efforts of the authorities and social activists, but the awareness and the respect that people have for the law.
The way in which the local people in Son La behaved when faced with a captured wild animal, should set an example to all.
Wildlife species are under the ownership of public. Therefore, if anyone catches one, it does not mean they can possess it. Yet it belongs to nature and is the common property of the nation as a whole. It is protected by the legal documents that all citizens have the responsibility to obey.