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Fauna and Flora International lists Vietnam among the countries with high biodiversity with 13,200 terrestrial plant species, 10,000 animal species and 3,000 aquatic species. However, many wildlife species are in danger because of poaching and trafficking.
There are species which are not listed as ‘highly threatened’ in global lists but are in danger in Vietnam. White-necked storks (Ciconia episcopus), for example, were not listed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) 2004 Book, but as ‘VU’ (vulnerable) in Vietnam because of the loss of habitat and polluted food.
Also according to IUCN, while some animal species are considered extinct in Vietnam, they still exist in neighboring countries. This shows big changes in biodiversity in Vietnam in comparison with other territories.
The biodiversity decline is attributed to increasing poaching and trafficking.
In the mid-1990s, Vietnam became one of the important links of the global wildlife trafficking rings. Many Vietnamese
citizens were arrested because of their involvement in crimes.
In March 2018, Nguyen Mau Chien, known as the leader of a wildlife trafficking rings which specializes in bringing wild animals from Africa, was sentenced to 13-month imprisonment for his behaviour of ‘storing and transporting prohibited goods’.
However, analysts commented that the sentence did not truly reflect Chien’s behavior of threatening Vietnam’s biodiversity.
At first, wildlife trafficking in Vietnam served demand from China. However, in the last two decades, as the Vietnamese living standard has improved, Vietnam not only serves as a link in the international trafficking rings, but also as a consumer.
Many wildlife species are hunted because of the wrong belief that their bone and meat can treat dangerous diseases.
Some large ports in Vietnam have become places gathering trafficked wild animals before they are transshipped to China.
In April alone, customs agencies seized six tons of pangolin scales carried from Africa.
Vietnam has made big progress recently in dealing with wildlife trafficking.
The 2017 Penal Code which took effect on January 1, 2018, stipulates heavy sanctions on storing and trafficking wildlife. Individuals could be sentenced up to 15 years in prison and fined up to VND5 billion, while legal entities could be imposed fines of up to VND15 billion and suspended for six months, three years, or forever.
In mid-2017, the government re-affirmed its commitment to stop breeding bears in captivity to collect gall. To date, 21 provinces/cities in Vietnam have stopped the activity.