Officials from three Vietnamese law enforcement agencies have joined representatives from the international community in calling for zero tolerance for wildlife crime.
Representatives from the Ministry of Public Security, the Supreme People’s Procuracy and the General Department of Customs stood with the UN Resident Coordinator and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to call for an end to wildlife trafficking at a press conference held on June 1 in Hanoi in the lead up to World Environment Day on June 5.
“The illegal trade in wildlife is driving species to the brink of extinction while posing environmental, economic, development and security risks,” said Ms. Pratibha Mehta, UN Resident Coordinator. “This is a critical issue not only for Vietnam but globally, and the UN in Vietnam stands firmly behind the appeal for zero tolerance for wildlife crime.”
Illegal wildlife poaching, trafficking, trade and consumption is an urgent and growing problem affecting a wide range of mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and amphibians, many of which are globally threatened species. It has become a multi-billion dollar business globally, with organized criminal activities driving many species to the brink of extinction and causing unprecedented destruction of natural resources.
Vietnam has taken steps to reinforce its commitment to fighting wildlife crime, including a recent increase in reported seizures of illegal wildlife products. Between 2010 and 2015 customs authorities seized approximately 55,200 kg of pangolins, 18,000 kg of ivory and more than 235 kg of rhino horn from illegal shipments; including one of their largest-ever seizures, at Tien Sa Port in Da Nang last year, when three shipments containing more than 3 tonnes of ivory, 120 kg of rhino horn and 4 tonnes of pangolin scales were intercepted.
The National Assembly last year also adopted a new Penal Code with strengthened provisions and increased penalties for wildlife crime and in November 2016 Vietnam will host the third international Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which will be a critical event to galvanize the international community to take stronger action against wildlife crime.
However, UNODC noted that while Vietnam has enacted a range of efforts to improve legislation, strengthen law enforcement, and reduce consumer demand, there is still more that needs to be done. So far very few cases of wildlife crime have been successfully prosecuted in Vietnam’s courts, due to a range of challenges including inadequate preparation and presentation of evidence, legal loopholes, and a weak rule of law.
“Wildlife crime is a serious transnational crime and it deserves a greater law enforcement response,” said Mr. Chris Batt, UNODC Regional Advisor on Anti-Money Laundering and the Officer-In-Charge of UNODC in Vietnam, “The next generation of efforts in Vietnam would benefit from coordinated multi-agency investigations, the use of financial intelligence and anti-money laundering systems to map and disable trafficking networks, strengthening the capacity of law enforcement officials to address trafficking at borders and points of entry to Vietnam and making full use of the newly increased penalties to deter wildlife crime.”
“To enhance the effectiveness of combating wildlife crime in the coming time, police forces are intensively and effectively implementing provisions of the Penal Code 2015 relating to wildlife crime and closely coordinating with competent authorities, namely Customs, Border Army, Market Control, Marine Police, and police from other countries and international organizations,, enhancing the exchange of information and experience in combating these types of crime,” said Lieutenant General Tran Van Ve, Deputy Director of the General Police Department.
Mr. Batt urged everyone to help stop the growing wave of wildlife trafficking. “We all have a role to play, from lawmakers and police to customs officers, prosecutors and judges, businesses, and citizens,” he said. “We need to raise awareness that wildlife crime is a crime that affects all of us, and one we should no longer accept. It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime – before it’s too late.”
World Environment Day is celebrated on June 5 every year and encourages countries around the world to raise awareness about specific environmental challenges. This year’s World Environment Day is putting the spotlight on the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
UNODC organized the press conference to highlight some of the wider impacts of wildlife crime, particularly its corrosive effect on the rule of law and stability, as well as to promote some of Vietnam’s recent law enforcement efforts to address the issue.