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For decades, Asiatic black bears have been held captive on Vietnamese bear bile farms so that owners may extract their bile, a traditional medicine. In 2005, the Vietnamese government, in collaboration with World Animal Protection (WAP) and Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV), began to crack down on the illegal exploitation of bears and selling of bear bile. At that time, more than 4,300 bears were recorded on Vietnamese bear bile farms.
After years of hard work, the number of bile bears has decreased to ~380 bears by the end of 2020. Additionally, 38 of Vietnam’s 63 provinces are now free of bile bears. However, while many provinces in Vietnam have taken great strides to become bile bear-free in recent years, Hanoi (and especially Hanoi’s Phuc Tho district) remains the biggest bear bile farming hotspot in the country. In Phuc Tho district alone, 152 bears are being kept for their bile by 27 farmers, making up more than 40% of Vietnam’s total captive bile bears and 90% of Hanoi’s bile bears.
The bear farming situation in Phuc Tho is a dark smear on the image of Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, both on a national and international scale. Now, the residents of Phuc Tho are calling for decisive action from authorities and bear owners to end this outdated and cruel practice.
Hanoi must not be left behind as the rest of the country ends bear farming! It’s time for Vietnam’s capital to set an example and take lead as the country’s guiding light to end bear bile farming in Vietnam once and for all.
Today, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) releases its second “Never Again” Public Service Announcement (PSA). The film portrays life in Vietnam during the Covid-19 shutdown, and encourages the public to take action to ensure another pandemic is never again possible.
The PSA begins with familiar scenes during the 2020 pandemic of an eerily empty city, quickly building in speed and intensity – similar to the pandemic itself. Almost a year since the origin of the destructive coronavirus, the world is still reeling from the catastrophic effects. More than one million people have already lost their lives, the global economy has been severely impacted, and governments have spent trillions of dollars working to contain and eliminate the virus.
Covid-19 may be the latest deadly disease originating from wildlife, but it’s not unprecedented. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, about 70% of all infectious diseases over the last 30 years have been zoonotic, including HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, swine flu, SARS, Ebola, MERS, and now Covid-19. At this rate, we are bound to see more zoonotic outbreaks within our lifetime, unless we change now.
“The government of Vietnam has responded remarkably to the outbreak, not only in protecting the public from large-scale contagion, but also declaring stronger action to fight Vietnam’s illegal wildlife trade,” says Nguyen Phuong Dung, ENV’s Vice Director.
However, Dung warns, “While life may appear to have returned to normality in Vietnam, it is important that we do not forget the serious threat that Covid-19 and other viral diseases from animals pose to our health and safety, as well as the substantial economic losses we have faced from closure of businesses and fighting the pandemic.”
ENV’s “Never Again” PSA is part of ENV’s “Never Again” campaign, launched in response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The campaign calls upon the public to take drastic measures to permanently eliminate consumption and trade of wildlife. Since the first Covid-19 Public Service Announcement (PSA) in April, ENV has broadcast “Never Again” messages on over 60 news channels, including major channels such as VTV1, VTV2, VTV3, and VTV6, as well as in residential and commercial building elevators, on buses and trains, and virally on social media.
In a revolutionary initiative, 20 of the most prominent conservation organizations worldwide have united as the Wildlife Conservation 20 (WC20), requesting immediate action from world leaders to implement rehabilitation of our natural world into COVID-19 recovery plans. As the G20 convened for their annual summit this weekend, they were met with an unprecedented call to protect biodiversity, which is perhaps the most important component of government response to COVID-19 that will significantly reduce the risk of future pandemics.
Included in the WC20 Declaration are actions such as strengthening legislation and implementing new legislation, enhancing financial and technical support of law enforcement in key wildlife trafficking nations, and raising public awareness to reduce demand and trafficking of wildlife. It is estimated that $700 billion a year invested in these efforts would reverse the decline in biodiversity by 2030, a mere fraction of the estimated $26 trillion in economic damage already caused by COVID-19.
As a pioneering Vietnamese NGO on the front line, Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) is proud to be part of this important initiative. ENV plays a major role in combating the billion-dollar illegal wildlife trade by addressing the consumption and trade of wildlife in Vietnam, a dominant hub of wildlife trafficking and demand. Currently, ENV carries out programs targeting all of the above-mentioned WC20 priorities.
“Today, the entire world struggles to contain and ultimately bring an end to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Sadly, this is not the first deadly zoonotic disease and almost certainly will not be the last,” says Vu Thi Quyen, Executive Director and Founder of Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV). “We strongly urge G20 leaders to take active measures to aggressively and proactively address high-risk areas associated with zoonotic diseases originating from wildlife, and in doing so, prevent and eliminate the next virus before it has an opportunity to become yet another global pandemic.”
Click here to read the joint press release from EndPandemics WC20 members Freeland, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), and Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV).
Seven bears from two farms in Binh Duong have safely arrived at Four Paws’ Bear Sanctuary in Ninh Binh. Today’s transfer is a result of the owners deciding to give their bears a better life outside the confines of a cage, following in the footsteps of many other ex-bear farmers across the country.
In addition to the seven bears transferred today, six bears were transferred in October 2020, and another two were transferred on November 3rd in Phu Tho province, totaling 15 bears surrendered to rescue centers since October 1, 2020.
“Over the past few years, we have witnessed many bear owners transferring their bears to sanctuaries,” says Vu Thi Quyen, Executive Director of ENV. “ENV will continue to work hard to encourage other bear owners across the country to do the same until there are no more bears caged at bear bile farms in Vietnam.”
More than 4,300 bears were discovered at bear bile farms across Vietnam in 2005. By November 2020, this number has decreased to less than 400 individuals, and 60% of Vietnam’s provinces are now bile bear-free. This progress has been possible thanks to many years of hard work from the government, law enforcement authorities, the public, and a number of NGOs in Vietnam.
The Bear Coalition in Vietnam, comprised of ENV, World Animal Protection, and Four Paws International, is calling on the provincial leaders of remaining bear bile provinces to take strong measures to expedite an end to bear bile farming in their provinces. Authorities in bear bile provinces should encourage local bear owners to turn over their bears and strictly punish those who trade or exploit bears for their bile. Aggressive action and punishment will effectively deter others from doing the same and contribute to the nation’s efforts to make Vietnam a bear bile-free country.
The Bear Coalition also calls on all bear owners across Vietnam, especially in Hanoi – the country’s biggest hotspot for bear bile farming – to follow in the footsteps of ex-bear owners who have voluntarily turned over their bears.
“The time has come for remaining bear owners to join the rest of the country in making sure this embarrassing and cruel remnant of the past is completely eliminated from Vietnam’s progressing society,” says ENV Executive Director, Vu Thi Quyen.
The illegal wildlife trade is destroying our Earth, pushing endangered species to extinction, and threatening public health on a globally deadly scale as the 4th largest black-market industry worldwide. Vietnam is a major player in the widespread trafficking of wildlife, with high demand for wildlife and as a wildlife trafficking hub. Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) is a local NGO fighting to end Vietnam’s illegal wildlife trade through education and strategic action to combat wildlife crime.
Vietnam is a significant part of the global illegal wildlife trade threatening our Earth and human health. Demand for wildlife is high in Vietnam due to traditional medicine, consumption at restaurants, the status symbol of endangered species products, and the growing illegal pet trade. Large criminal networks take advantage of this demand by illegally supplying Vietnam with tons of wildlife and their products, while also using Vietnam as a transit country for wildlife smuggling routes.
ENV tackles Vietnam’s illegal wildlife trade through education and strategic work to combat wildlife crime. Awareness campaigns reach millions across Vietnam through schools, public events, TV, radio, social media, elevator screens, airports, buses, and trains. Meanwhile, ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit receives more than 8 new public reports of wildlife crime a day. Case Officers coordinate a response by authorities to confiscate live animals and wildlife products, and arrest and prosecute criminals.
ENV has tackled over 45,000 wildlife crime violations, contributed to a 90% decrease of bears on bile farms, and by mobilizing authorities, confiscated tons of wildlife products and rescued thousands of wild animals from the illegal trade. ENV investigations have also led to the arrest and imprisonment of 4 trafficking network leaders. ENV’s work on demand reduction and enforcement has and continues to drive the change needed to secure a better future for wildlife, both in Vietnam and globally.
At the top of the list is the need to initiate aggressive police investigations that target the leadership of wildlife trafficking networks, with the aim of arresting and prosecuting the leaders of these criminal enterprises and dismantling their operations permanently.
In addition to taking down wildlife trafficking kingpins, other critical interventions include strengthening deterrence to reduce crime, addressing abuse within the commercial wildlife farming industry, eradicating corruption within the criminal justice system, and putting an end to bear farming.
“Vietnam has made substantial progress on all ten priorities in recent years,” says Vu Thi Quyen, ENV’s Founder and Executive Director. “There are positive developments on all fronts. Now, the task at hand is to maintain momentum and continue aggressively down this path, to the point where Vietnam is no longer a major consumer of wildlife, nor a trafficking hub for the region.”
Quyen believes this goal is not only realistic, but achievable. “Look at how the criminal justice system has applied the revised Penal Code,” says Quyen. “Criminals are going to prison for their crimes, and among them are the leaders of four major trafficking networks.”
“We have a lot to do ahead of us, and some major obstacles to overcome, but we have already accomplished a great deal of progress.”
Tackling corruption within the criminal justice system remains one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in the battle to combat wildlife trafficking in Vietnam. Whether corruption involves passage of goods through ports or airports, issuance of permits to commercial farms, or allowing criminals to escape capture, prosecution, or imprisonment, corruption undermines the law, and in doing so, undermines the health of society and effectiveness of government.
In addition to eliminating corruption, one of the new critical actions in 2020 reflects the need to address the serious human health and safety risks posed by animal-borne viruses like Covid-19. While ENV strongly supports current efforts to eliminate wildlife trade and consumption as called for by the Prime Minister, ENV goes on to urge policy-makers, key ministries, provincial governments, and other government agencies to share the responsibility of increasing public awareness about the deadly effects of wildlife trade and consumption, reinforcing national efforts to curb consumer demand and reduce the risk of future outbreaks.
“We believe Vietnam is on many fronts a leader in Southeast Asia in efforts to tackle the illegal wildlife trade, and we’re proud of the progress that has been accomplished,” states Quyen. “Success is within our grasp if we can remain focused and committed to addressing these ten critical actions for Vietnam.”
Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) has published the Prosecution Review for Wildlife Crime in Vietnam from 2015 to 2020, reflecting the performance of Vietnam’s criminal justice system in implementing the 2015 Penal Code (amended in 2017) and prosecuting wildlife trafficking cases.
ENV has analyzed 552 wildlife trafficking cases that occurred between 2015 and 2020, the results of which show a positive and upward trend in the nation’s efforts to combat wildlife crime following implementation of the revised Penal Code in 2018. From January 2018 to the end of 2019, the number of wildlife trafficking seizures increased 44% while the percent of seizures resulting in arrests remained consistent from 2015 to 2019 at 86.7%. However, during the first six months of 2020, the percentage of trafficking cases resulting in arrest jumped to 97%.
“ENV’s prosecution analysis attests to the strength of the current Penal Code and the elevated efforts of Vietnam’s law enforcement and criminal justice courts to take down wildlife criminals,” says Bui Thi Ha, ENV’s Vice Director & Head of Policy and Legislation Department. “Since the new law has been in force, and especially this year in 2020, evidence shows that wildlife trafficking crimes are being taken more seriously in Vietnam.”
For example, in 2015, 45.8% of wildlife court cases led to one or more subjects sentenced to prison. However, this percentage has increased steeply in 2020, as numbers show 67.9% of all convictions in wildlife trafficking cases have resulted in prison sentences this year.
Additionally, in 2015 the average prison sentence imposed in a wildlife trafficking cases was 0.98 years. At present, the 2020 average prison sentence for wildlife crime stands at 4.49 years, a 358% increase over 2015.
“The trends we’re seeing in the analysis of wildlife prosecutions over the last six years illustrate the increasingly aggressive approach to tackling Vietnam’s illegal wildlife trade,” said Mrs. Ha. “ENV commends law enforcement authorities, courts, procuracies, and decision-makers for amending the Penal Code and enforcing its implementation so rigorously,” added Mrs. Ha.
While progress is clear, it is important to understand Vietnam is far from the finish line in terms of ending the illegal wildlife trade. ENV’s Prosecution Review highlights major obstacles that lay ahead in efforts to successfully tackle wildlife trafficking in Vietnam. These critical challenges include a) eradicating corruption from within the ranks of the criminal justice system, b) initiating strategic investigations targeting wildlife criminal leaders, c) identifying, arresting, and prosecuting the owners of major wildlife shipments arriving at ports and airports in Vietnam, and d) creative utilization of other approaches to target criminal enterprises and their leadership such as anti-money laundering laws or tax evasion.
“Vietnam has come a long way in strengthening wildlife protection, and as a country we can be proud of the combined efforts of government officials, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, and the courts who have collectively advanced efforts to combat wildlife crime,” Ha asserts. “Now, our efforts need to focus on maintaining momentum while taking the offensive to eliminate criminal enterprises that traffic wildlife by targeting their leadership with arrest and prosecution.”
Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) has released their newest campaign film, titled Macaques Are Not Pets, to tackle the widespread demand for macaques in Vietnam’s illegal pet trade.
ENV’s “Macaques are not pets” campaign is their first to focus on macaques exclusively, and is a direct response to the rise in macaque crimes which have overwhelmed both law enforcement and wildlife facilities in Vietnam.
“Macaques in Vietnam are extensively poached from the wild and sold to households, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and other businesses who use these wild animals as attractions and entertainment, or pets,” says Bui Thi Ha, ENV’s Vice Director & Head of Policy and Legislation Department. “The problem has become increasingly evident to ENV through public reports of the sale, advertisement, and possession of macaques, both physically and online.”
ENV’s Macaques Are Not Pets campaign film features a heartbreaking sequence of photos which illustrate the large-scale exploitation that macaques are facing across Vietnam as demand for them remains rampant. The images have been collected from real cases reported to ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit from members of the public, bringing the harsh reality of macaque trafficking and exploitation to the forefront of Vietnamese society.
The film intentionally captures the distressing truth for macaques in Vietnam in an effort to effectively reduce consumer demand for macaques as pets. By deterring individuals from participating in macaque exploitation and encouraging witnesses to report macaques to ENV’s Wildlife Crime Hotline, ENV aims to turn “macaques are not pets” from phrase to fact in Vietnam.
In addition to the Macaques Are Not Pets campaign film, ENV has also recently completed a 10-year review of all ENV recorded macaque cases, Summary of Macaque Crime in Vietnam. The purpose of the summary is to highlight the magnitude of crimes involving macaques being kept as pets.
“The high number of macaque crimes discovered through ENV’s decade-long evaluation represents the urgent need to crack-down on consumer demand for macaques, the main objective of ENV’s campaign,” says Bui Thi Ha. “The people of Vietnam must recognize the demand for macaques is not only out of control, but illegal.”
From January 1, 2010 to May 31, 2020, ENV calculated 2,967 individual macaque violations reported to ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit, representing both physical crimes and internet crimes involving possession, selling, advertising, and trafficking of macaques or macaque parts and products. Notably, Vietnam’s southern provinces exceeded the northern provinces in reported macaque crimes, and Ho Chi Minh City led the country with 78 possession cases resulting in the confiscation of 92 macaques.
ENV’s “Macaques are not pets” campaign was originally launched in March 2020 through a series of ENV visual content which illustrated captive macaques and the message “Macaques are not pets”. The original content has been shared virally to millions of people and was displayed on LCD screens in apartment buildings throughout Hanoi, airing 17 million times per day.
“Exploitation of macaques must be taken seriously by authorities and individuals in Vietnam in order to eliminate this uncontrolled demand and trade of macaques,” concludes Ha. “Macaques are wild animals; macaques are not pets.”
Hanoi, July 29, 2020 – Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) has just released their latest Public Service Announcement (PSA) in celebration of International Tiger Day on July 29th. The PSA, titled Superstitious, brings the audience face-to-face with superstitions still common in Vietnam, some harmless, and others destroying Earth’s wildlife.
Superstitious engages the audience through jovial characters and a lighthearted mood as a Vietnamese family goes about their day. As the first day of the lunar month, it’s a very superstitious time, and the viewer is taken on a comical journey from one superstition to the next.
“This PSA aims to appeal to a wider audience by using humor to capture people’s attention,” says Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung, ENV’s Vice Director. “The continued use of tiger bone glue in Vietnam is a serious concern, however, we can captivate more minds by presenting the problem from a different perspective that is easier for the public to relate to.”
For many viewers in Vietnam, it’s relatable to watch family members behave superstitiously, just as the son in the PSA watches and judges his family’s irrational habits. The turning point culminates when the son, who thought of himself as the most logical of the family, brings home tiger bone medicine “for health”. To the son’s surprise, the family is quick to condemn his outdated belief that tiger bone glue could improve health, concluding the PSA with a message to the audience that tiger bone glue has no proven medicinal value whatsoever.
In the last 18 months, ENV documented 652 tiger violations through their Wildlife Crime Unit. Violations include advertising, selling, possessing, and trafficking tiger bone glue, as well as tiger claws, teeth, organs, and skin. There were also a number of cases involving the trafficking of live and dead tigers. Demand for tiger bone glue is driving the continued slaughter of tigers, for no other reason than a falsely-held belief.
“As long as this archaic belief still exists, tigers will continue to be slaughtered every day,” says Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Dung. “To save the last few tigers in the wild, each member of the public needs to take action and speak out against friends and family who condone or continue to use tiger products for unfounded beliefs.”
This PSA is part of ENV’s long-term efforts to reduce consumer demand for products made from tigers and combat the illegal tiger trade. The new PSA will be aired on national and provincial television channels in Vietnam, and displayed on Vietnam’s national railway, reaching millions of people travelling through rural and urban areas. It will also be broadcast virally through ENV’s social media channels.
ENV would like to thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and FOUR PAWS International for their contributions to produce this PSA. ENV also thanks the local and national TV stations and RailTV for broadcasting this important message to the people of Vietnam.
Hanoi, July 21, 2020. The Covid-19 pandemic has shattered the world, resulting in the loss of more than 600,000 human lives so far and putting the world’s population at risk. The pandemic has also wreaked havoc on the global economy, impacting commerce and trade, closing businesses, putting people out of work, and costing governments trillions of dollars to respond to the crisis.
Covid-19 is the latest deadly disease suspected to have originated from wildlife. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, about 70% of all infectious diseases over the last 30 years are zoonotic, including HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, swine flu, SARS, Ebola, and MERS.
In response to the global crisis, ENV has launched the “NEVER AGAIN” campaign, calling on the Vietnamese government and the public to take drastic measures to eliminate the illegal wildlife trade and curb the demand for wildlife.
As part of the “NEVER AGAIN” campaign, ENV released its first Covid-19 Public Service Announcement (PSA) in April, which has been featured on major national TV channels and continues to air on more than 50 channels throughout the country. From April to June, ENV and media partners Goldsun Focus Media and Chicilon Media broadcasted ENV’s messages on thousands of screens in apartment building elevators to reach more than 17 million airings daily.
This week, ENV released a new VLOG, also titled “NEVER AGAIN”, where ordinary people share their real-life experiences about the effects that Covid-19 has had on their lives and what they believe can be done to prevent the next pandemic.
Moreover, ENV’s “NEVER AGAIN” campaign includes viral posts and media, including infographics, polls, targeted ads, and the results of an online survey, all aimed at making the mantra “NEVER AGAIN” part of the Vietnamese consciousness and encouraging action against the wildlife trade. Additionally, another “NEVER AGAIN”-themed Public Service Announcement (PSA) film is currently in production and set to be released later this year. The message will also be integrated in public exhibits hosted by ENV’s Wildlife Protection Volunteer Clubs in urban cities.
“We commend the exceptional containment of Covid-19 from the Vietnamese government to protect the Vietnamese public; however, we must also take proactive measures to permanently eliminate the threat” says Nguyen Phuong Dung, ENV’s Vice Director. “Never again should we be exposed to the risk of disease originating from the wildlife trade.”
ENV calls upon the public to avoid unnecessary exposure to wildlife. “Be healthy and safe by avoiding contact with wild animals or frequenting restaurants where wildlife is advertised or sold,” says Dung.
ENV also urges the government to aggressively eliminate potential high-risk hotspots for zoonotic disease transmission. This includes restaurants and markets that advertise or sell wildlife and residences that keep wildlife, either as pets or on a wildlife farm. As a nation, we can reverse the public’s growing interest in keeping wild animals as pets and actively enforce better management of thousands of wildlife farms across the country, many of which are disguises for laundering animals that originate from the wild.
ENV’s efforts will continue for as long as necessary to protect Vietnam’s wellbeing by effectively eliminating the risks posed by the trade and consumption of wildlife.
ENV wishes to thank NGO partners Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and World Animal Protection, as well as national and provincial TV stations for their ongoing support. ENV also acknowledges leading Vietnamese media companies Chicilon Media, Goldsun Focus Media, and Saga Media for their generous assistance in making ENV’s wildlife conservation messaging available to the broader public. Through the combined efforts of supporters and the individual actions of all Vietnamese citizens, we can make sure another zoonotic global pandemic is never again possible.