WWF starts petition to end wildlife trade in Vietnam, decries lack of action



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The NGO asks activists to demand tough measures from the Vietnamese government to end the trade of ivory and rhino horn.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is calling activists around the globe to come together and demand that the government of Vietnam do more to save rhinos and elephants.

The campaign, “Act Now to Save Rhinos,” urged people to join and sign a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, asking the Vietnamese government to take “concrete action” to tackle the poaching of the two endangered species.

Vietnam and its neighbor China have been identified by international conservation groups as the world’s biggest consumers of rhino horn. Rhinos are being poached in South Africa at the rate of one animal every eight hours. The country has lost nearly 6,000 rhinos since 2007, while its elephant population has shrunk by a fifth in the past decade.

The Vietnamese government has indeed committed to combating wildlife trafficking, by outlawing commercial use of rhino horn and ivory as well as signing a pact with South Africa on biodiversity management to curb the rampant illegal trade.

But little has been achieved, according to conservationists.

“Illegal rhino horn and ivory are still openly for sale in wildlife markets and on social media/online. Yet there has not been a single recorded prosecution of a rhino horn or ivory trafficker,” the WWF wrote in its petition letter, which can be found on its website.

The organization said its representatives will personally deliver the letter to Vietnam’s government officials during an important conference in Hanoi on November 17-18.

“As the host of the Hanoi Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, Vietnam has a golden opportunity to crackdown on wildlife crime and contribute to saving two of the world’s most iconic species,” the group wrote in the letter.

It is not the first time wildlife conservationists have chided Vietnam on this issue.

PM Phuc last month issued a directive ordering agencies to combat the trafficking of wild animals, two days after the WWF threatened trade sanctions against Vietnam. The group urged Vietnam to crank up its efforts to end the illegal trade of rhino horn. It suggested signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora bring sanctions against the country if it continues avoiding action.

Colman O’Criodain, trade analyst with the WWF, told the Associated Press last month that Vietnam had resisted taking action against wildlife trafficking for years.

“For the past six years it’s been known that Vietnam is the biggest market for rhino horn,” he said. “So far, over six years, there has not been a decision to suspend trade with Vietnam.”

Rhino horn is sought after in Vietnam by those who believe that it can cure cancer, despite no scientific basis.

The last known Javan rhino in Vietnam, which belonged to a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010. Its horn was hacked off.

The ivory trade in Vietnam has also been rampant despite a ban introduced in the 1990s. Large hauls of elephant tusks are seized in the country from time to time, including three shipments of 3.3 tons this month alone.

The WWF on Thursday also issued a global report warning that the world is at risk of losing more than two thirds of its wildlife by the end of the decade.

The WWF’s Living Planet Index said 56 percent of fish, mammals, birds and reptiles worldwide have vanished since 1970, or at a rate of 2 percent a year. The reasons are habitat loss, over exploitation of resources, pollution and climate change.

“This is definitely human impact, we’re in the sixth mass extinction,” WWF conservation scientist Martin Taylor said, as cited by CNN.