With the rhino poaching crisis showing no signs of abating, Vietnam must crack down on its rampant illegal rhino horn trade or face sanctions, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International said ahead of a critically important wildlife trade conference next week in South Africa.
In a statement, the WWF said that as the world’s largest market for illegal rhino horn, Vietnam’s failure to shut down illegal markets, disrupt the trafficking networks and prosecute the traffickers will be in the spotlight as Johannesburg hosts the 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from September 24 to October 5.
This 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 in South Africa, which has lost nearly 6 000 rhinos to poachers since 2007, including more than 700 so far this year, rhino issues will be high on the agenda.
The statement said 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.
“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,” WWF head of delegation to CITES Ginette Hemley said.
“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.”
Specifically, 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.
Besides Vietnam, CITES must also compel other countries along the illegal rhino horn trade chain to do more. South Africa has devoted considerable resources to stopping poaching with some success but longer term interventions involving communities and addressing transnational criminal networks are required. Mozambique must ramp up its efforts to prevent smugglers using its territory and China, another major consumer of rhino horn, needs to focus on reducing demand.
“International trade bans are critical to saving wildlife, but without rigorous efforts to prevent poaching and trafficking they are never enough on their own. Organised criminal networks will continue to target threatened species, as we have seen with rhinos, elephants and tigers,” said Hemley.
– Caxton News Service