WWF chides Vietnam on rhino horn trade, threatens sanctions

By VnExpress   September 15, 2016 | 07:01 pm PT
WWF chides Vietnam on rhino horn trade, threatens sanctions
A ranger gestures before performing a post mortem on a rhino after it was killed for its horn by poachers in South Africa's Kruger National Park, August 27, 2014. Photo by Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
The ultimatum of sort comes ahead of a high-profile intn'l conservation conference.

Vietnam has to crank up its efforts to crack down on the illegal trade in rhino horn and failure to do so could see trade sanctions on the country, the World Wildlife Fund said in a statement Thursday.

Vietnam’s failure to shut down illegal markets, disrupt the trafficking networks and prosecute the traffickers will top the agenda of the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) , which will open next week in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Despite widespread evidence of rhino horn openly for sale in Vietnam, authorities have made no significant rhino horn seizures within their borders and have reported no successful prosecutions, the WWF said.

“Vietnam’s poor law enforcement record speaks for itself: ending the illegal rhino horn trade and helping to save Africa’s rhinos is clearly not a priority for the government,” said Ginette Hemley, WWF head of delegation to CITES.

“With around three rhinos being poached each day, there is no time to lose. CITES must take a tough line with Vietnam: swiftly implement critical measures to tackle the illegal rhino horn trade or face trade sanctions.”

According to the WWF statement, Vietnam must agree to enact new regulations to treat wildlife crime as a “serious crime” with a minimum sentence of four years in prison; legislate to treat fake rhino horn as real rhino horn for enforcement and prosecution purposes; and successfully target and prosecute illegal traders and traffickers.

Otherwise, CITES must call on countries to prohibit trade with Vietnam in all CITES-regulated wildlife, the statement said.

Statistics compiled by conservation groups show that South Africa has lost nearly 6,000 rhinos to poachers since 2007, including more than 700 so far this year.

International conservation groups have identified Vietnam and China as the world's two major consumers of rhino horns -- a charge the two countries have bristled at.

South Africa and Vietnam have signed a pact on biodiversity management to curb the rampant illegal trade in rhino horns.

Vietnam’s official stance on this issue is that the country has strictly prohibited the trade in wildlife species that is against Vietnamese laws and international conventions to which the country is a signatory.

What's more Vietnam has outlawed the commercial use of rhinoceros horn, which is composed largely of the protein keratin, the chief component in human hair and fingernails. The trade has been fueled by a misguided belief in its supposed medicinal properties, including its ability to cure cancer. Many also flaunt the horns as a status symbol.

The upcoming meeting in South Africa will be the largest CITES meeting ever with participation of 181 countries and a record number of items up for negotiation, including wildlife trade issues relating to elephants, sharks, pangolins and tigers. But given its location, rhino issues will be high on the agenda, according to the WWF.

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