COP17 – will it deliver better protection for endangered species?

Hanoi (Sept 22, 2016) – Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) are calling on the delegates of CITES party members to vote “No” to Swaziland’s proposal on legalizing the international trade of rhino horns, oppose tiger farming and increase protection for pangolins during the upcoming COP 17 in Johannesburg, South Africa.






In the midst of global rhino crises, the Kingdom of Swaziland has recently submitted a proposal to CITES for the legalization of international trade of rhino horns. Swaziland did not only propose selling their rhino horn stockpiles but also the ongoing sale of harvested horns from living rhinos.


ENV strongly believe that the idea of selling rhino horns to fund anti-poaching measures is seriously flawed. The coexistence of legal and illegal rhino horn will certainly undermine international law enforcement efforts, especially in many developing countries. It will be a huge challenge for law enforcement in distinguishing between legal and illegal products, leading to confusion and de-motivation amongst authorities in investigating and enforcing the law. The legal rhino horn trade will also undermine the progress we have collectively made over the past few years in reducing consumer demand for rhinos in countries like Vietnam and China.


“How can we justify encouraging people in my country not to consume rhino horn if we agree to allow the sale and consumption of rhino horn from ‘legal’ sources? If we really want to protect rhinos, we must show a serious commitment to protect these precious animals, not profit from their deaths,” said Ms. Ha Bui, ENV vice director. “ENV would, therefore, encourage CITES Vietnam and all other country members to vote NO to Swaziland’s proposal.”


During COP 17, ENV will also encourage CITES delegates to put an end to tiger farming as it has no conservation value and threatens the remaining tiger populations in the world.


The growth of tiger farming is alarming in Vietnam and other countries in the region. In Vietnam, the number of captive tigers has increased from five private facilities with 55 individuals in 2007 to 14 private facilities with 189 individuals by July of 2016. ENV has been carrying out regular inspections and undercover investigations at these farms. Out of 14 private zoos and farms inspected by ENV in Vietnam, criminal activity, including laundering and selling tigers and their parts, was documented at six establishments, and violations in relation to the management of tigers were found at three other private zoos. The uncontrolled breeding of tigers on farms has led to a steady increase in captive tigers in private hands, despite the fact that tigers are strictly protected by law and commercial trade of tigers is prohibited. In the most recent incident, a felon twice-convicted for killing and trading tigers used his wife’s name to obtain a permit to establish a tiger facility for “education and conservation” purposes. He also successfully obtained CITES permits and imported nine tigers from Europe, in addition to 15 tigers from another private farm. “It’s no surprise that major criminals are often hidden under legal entities,” said Ms. Ha Bui. “Responsible agencies must act ‘responsibly’ and stop putting tigers into private hands.”


As the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam confirmed in a report submitted to the Prime Minister of Vietnam, captive tigers have no conservation value. Similarly, ENV believe that COP 17 delegates should address the growth of tiger farming and take immediate steps to put an end to this practice.

As the COP 17 is about to launch, ENV are eager to support the proposal for up listing of all pangolin species from CITES Appendix ll to Appendix l. The change of status, which gives all eight species of pangolins the same level of protection as tigers, together with the newly developed Penal Code, will also simplify identification of the species because all violations involving them will be criminal offences (except for the act of advertising pangolins for sale which is an administrative offense).


Taking an overview on what is hoped to be achieved at Johannesburg, Ms.Vu Thi Quyen, Director and Founder of ENV, commented: “The eyes of the world are on us like never before. We have high hopes that the right decisions will be made at Johannesburg to ensure the survival of endangered species such as rhinos, tigers and pangolins that are facing crises due to hunting and trade. ENV hope CITES Vietnam will act in the best interests of endangered species during the COP 17.”


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is holding its 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17) in Johannesburg (South Africa) on 24 September – 5 October 2016. Vietnam’s Government is attending as are representatives of Education for Nature – Vietnam (ENV) in an observer capacity.



The official logo of CoP17 


The Johannesburg gathering will be the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES held on the African continent since CITES came into force on 1 July 1975, but the first on the continent since 2000. CoP17 will be considering 62 proposals to increase or decrease controls on international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, submitted by 64 Parties from around the world. In total close to 500 species may be affected by these proposed changes.

Swaziland's anti-poaching body believes selling their 330kg stockpile of horn collected from naturally deceased animals and poachers could raise close to $10 million USD to help protect Swaziland's 73 remaining white rhino from poachers. In addition to selling the stockpile to the traditional medicine markets of the Far East, Swaziland is also pushing for the sale of a further 20kg on an annual basis, raising $600,000, by harvesting horns from living herds and re-growing horns from dehorned rhinos.


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