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Registered Wildlife Farm Busted for Laundering Wildlife
On May 12, 2020, the Provincial People’s Court of Quang Nam sentenced Pham Thi Thuan to 5 years in prison and 60 million VND for laundering wildlife through her licensed wildlife farm in Thanh Binh district of Quang Nam province.
Two years ago, on May 8, 2018, authorities searched the address of Ms. Pham Thi Thuan’s registered wildlife farm and confiscated 13 king cobras, 8 Bengal monitors, nearly 300 turtles including 18 big-headed turtles, and many other rare wildlife species. Prior to that, Thuan was fined twice in 2011 and 2013 for illegally possessing wildlife that was not bred in the captivity of her farm but sourced illegally from the wild.
In December 2019, Thuan was sentenced to 2 years in prison for her illegal activity. However, through ENV intervention and an appeal to Quang Nam court for a longer sentence, her time in prison was lengthened to 5 years.
This news story has been picked up by The Independent, featured in this article.
Pangolin Trafficking Kingpin and Accomplices Sentenced to Hard Time in Prison
On May 13, 2020, Tran Quy, Director of Hai Dang., Ltd, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and 100 million VND by the Provincial People’s Court of Ca Mau for running a pangolin trafficking network through the ruse of an ecotourism business. His accomplices also received prison terms. Nguyen Hai Nam was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 50 million VND, Le Viet Linh received 10 years in prison, and Ngo Vu Lam was sentenced to 2 years in prison for abusing his position as a Forest Protection Officer to create fraudulent legal papers for Tran Quy’s business.
In January 2018, Dat Mui Border Guard seized 114 Sunda pangolins and more than 300kg of Sunda pangolin scales on an unregistered ship belonging to Hai Dang., Ltd. Further investigation showed that Hai Dang., Ltd (the business for which Tran Quy was the director) had a license for conducting eco-tourism and wildlife conservation activities on Hon Khoai Island in Ca Mau province. However, Hai Dang., Ltd did not actually carry out any tourism activity on the island. They used the remote location to receive pangolins and pangolin scales in huge shipments from overseas, then transported them to mainland Vietnam where they were then driven north towards the Chinese border.
ENV followed this case closely and provided information about Tran Quy’s business when able. The harsh prison sentences sparked attention from the media, seen in the VN Express article here.
In response to the current pandemic affecting countries and economies across the globe, ENV has released a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) in Vietnam to highlight the health risks of wildlife consumption. The objective of the PSA is to mitigate further risk of zoonotic outbreak and accelerate an end to the sale and consumption of wildlife.
People across the globe are facing death and economic collapse due to the consumption of wildlife. While Vietnam is not the culprit of the current Covid-19 pandemic, there is still prevalent consumption of wildlife in Vietnam and it is time for this practice to end once and for all.
In this Public Service Announcement (PSA), ENV illustrates how the outbreak has spread worldwide while alarming the public to stop consuming wildlife immediately. ENV calls on the people to take their future into their own hands to ensure a future zoonotic disease is not able to destroy families, communities, countries, and economies ever again.
This PSA is being broadcast on nearly 60 TV channels across Vietnam, reaching millions of people. In addition to the Covid-19 PSA, ENV has also launched numerous other viral campaigns and LCD displays in buildings all over Vietnam with similar wildlife consumption messages.
To join ENV as we strategically combat wildlife trafficking through public education, response to wildlife crime, and collaboration with Vietnamese lawmakers to update legislation, please consider donating.
The global Covid-19 pandemic has been linked to human contact with wildlife, prompting ENV to join 13 other nonprofits in Vietnam in an open letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urging for an immediate response to the wildlife trade.
On March 6th, an official response was released stating that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Information and Communication and other relevant agencies are working together to draft a directive to ban trade and consumption of wildlife as soon as possible.
This international news story created the opportunity for ENV to talk to The Guardian about the new directive. The article explains legislative complications for wildlife in Vietnam and how ENV will utilize the current momentum to work with Vietnamese lawmakers to ensure the new directive effectively ends the wildlife trade.
On February 16th 2020, ENV joined 13 other wildlife organizations in Vietnam in an open letter to Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, urging for immediate and serious improvements to wildlife conservation laws. As the Coronavirus continues to spread worldwide and within Vietnam’s borders, it is imperative that Vietnam’s government take action to end the trade and consumption of wildlife. The recent outbreak has already had devastating effects on health and the economy in Vietnam.
His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc,
Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
We, the representatives of Vietnamese and international non-profit organizations working in nature and wildlife conservation, would like to bring to your attention one significant issue that we believe has the utmost importance in relation to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) and reducing threats from further outbreaks.
As you are aware, the Covid-19 outbreak, has caused considerable concern to Vietnamese citizens in regards to their health and considerable costs to the Vietnamese economy and public health to control this emerging threat. As with the outbreak of SARS in 2002, which claimed 5 Vietnamese lives, this novel coronavirus is thought to have been transmitted to humans from wildlife as a result of close contact in a seafood market in Wuhan, China where illegal wildlife also was being sold. Peer-reviewed scientific publications have now demonstrated that the virus came originally from bats and has been passed via an intermediate wildlife host to humans. The species that acted as an intermediate host has not yet been identified for certain, although one research group in China has suggested it may be pangolins. Irrespective, it appears clear that transmission has occurred via close contact between humans and wildlife as part of ongoing illegal wildlife trade.
Looking back at recent history, several pandemics in the last twenty years showed clear links with virus reservoirs in wildlife populations. The SARS outbreak in 2002, which infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in 774 deaths in 37 countries, came from a novel betacoronavirus sourced from bats through masked palm civets as the intermediate host before reaching humans. The Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) outbreak in 2012, which infected 2,494 and cost 858 human lives, also came from another coronavirus passing though dromedary camels to humans1. The very recent bout of African Swine Fever (ASF) sweeping through China, Vietnam and nine other countries, has caused severe economic losses and is attributed to wild African suids2. By the end of 2019, all 63 provinces in Vietnam were affected by ASF with over five million pigs euthanized.
The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak will also certainly cause significant damage to Vietnam. An initial assessment by the Ministry of Investment and Planning showed that Vietnam’s GDP target will be 0.53% lower than expected if the outbreak is controlled within the first quarter of 2020 or 0.71% lower if the outbreak is controlled in the second quarter3. So far, the airline sector of Vietnam has been hard hit with about 10,000 billion Vietnam Dong lost due to flight cancelations during the outbreak4.
The lesson from SARS and now Covid-19 are clear: new viruses will continue to move from wildlife to people while illegal wildlife trade and wildlife consumption continue. Research conducted in Vietnam and beyond has demonstrated that corona viruses exist in wildlife populations and the illegal wildlife trade provides opportunities for these viruses to jump from wildlife to people. Despite efforts to reform wildlife protection policy and increase enforcement, illegal wildlife trade and consumption in Vietnam is still problematic. In addition, in recent years, there are growing flows of illegal wildlife products from international markets going to and through Vietnam.
Limiting interaction between wildlife and humans through strong enforcement against illegal wildlife trade and wildlife markets is the most effective approach to mitigating future risk associated with transmission of disease between animals and humans. As the source of this particular outbreak, China has already made some major steps to mitigate future risk in relation to zoonotic disease outbreaks from contact between wildlife and humans by temporarily closing all wildlife markets. This is in recognition of the serious threat faced.
1 Genomic characterisation and epidemiology of 2019 novel coronavirus: implications for virus origins and receptor binding. Lu, Roujian et al. The Lancet, 2020. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30251-8
2 African Swine Fever. UN Food and Agriculture Organization, 2020. http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/programmes/en/empres/ASF/index.html
3 Dịch virus corona tác động thế nào đến kinh tế Việt Nam? Source: https://news.zing.vn/dich-virus-corona-tac-dong-the-nao-den-kinh-te-viet-nam-post1043954.html
4 Hàng không Việt Nam thiệt hại lớn trước “cơn bão” nCoV. Souce: http://baochinhphu.vn/Kinh-te/Hang-khong-Viet-Nam-thiet-hai-lon-truoc-con-bao-nCoV/387320.vgp
In order to ensure national safety, economic security and the health of the public and Vietnam’s precious ecosystems, we request the Vietnamese government to take strong and sustainable actions to halt all illegal wildlife trade and consumption in Vietnam. This will require action to:
We note that the Vietnam Administration of Forestry (VNFOREST) has sent a directive to provincial authorities on controlling wildlife trade to prevent spread of coronaviruses on 6th Feb 2020, following the directive of the Prime Minister on preventing and combating the nCoV disease on 28th January 2020. While we support this effort of VNFOREST, it’s recommended that the government should take more concrete actions to eliminate reservoirs of future virus outbreaks as detailed above.
In addition to the public safety and economic rationale for such controls, these actions will help demonstrate Vietnam is a regional leader on the issue of combating illegal wildlife trade and biodiversity conservation.
We the undersigned stand ready to support the development and implementation of initiatives to reduce this threat to society.
Conservation Director, WWF-Vietnam
Ha Thang Long
Hoang Bich Thuy
Program Director, WCS Vietnam
Country Director, FFI Vietnam
Nguyen Phuong Dung
Director, Education for Nature – Vietnam
Nguyen Van Thai
Director, Save Vietnam Wildlife
Nguyen Vu Khoi
Executive Director, Wildlife at Risk
Director, TRAFFIC Vietnam
Vietnam Director, Animals Asia Foundation
Trinh Le Nguyen
Executive Director, PanNature
1. Center for Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment (Change)
2. Free the Bears
3. Humane Society International- Vietnam
4. Center for Nature Conservation and Development (CCD)
Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) is a non-governmental organization focused on wildlife conservation. ENV protects endangered species from extinction by working to end the illegal wildlife trade threatening thousands of animals in Vietnam and worldwide.
In the wake of the sixth mass extinction, Education for Nature Vietnam is taking action against extinction and fighting for the preservation of biodiversity. We do this through an effective approach consisting of three elements:
The very real human cost of illegal wildlife trafficking resulting from heavier prison sentences is brought powerfully home in Education for Nature – Vietnam’s newly released Public Service Announcement, Don’t Do It.
The odds of a marine turtle making it to adulthood and reproducing are around 1000 to 1. Factor in exploitation for their meat, eggs and shells and the odds lengthen even further.
Today, we have launched a new fund-raising campaign to help ENV protect Vietnam’s internationally important marine turtle populations.
Check out the appeal page and campaign video here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/give-marine-turtles-a-chance
Please feel free to share the link with your own network. The short link we are using is http://bit.ly/turtleappeal
The PSA calls on people to stop the consumption of wildlife before it’s too late; and report wildllife crime to ENV’s toll free hotline – 1800 1522.