Lessons from Johannesburg: Substantial progress addressing wildlife crime illuminates major obstacles ahead for Vietnam

Hanoi October 11, 2016: The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of CITES in Johannesburg, South Africa was wrapped up last week with positive outcomes for many endangered species which are victims of illicit global trafficking. 



ENV director Vu Thi Quyen tells pro-trade advocates to “Keep their rhino horn out of my country!” during an encounter at the conference.


ENV were in particular very pleased to see that the Swaziland’s proposal to legalize rhino horn trade was rejected by a great majority of party members. Similarly, all eight pangolin species have been up-listed to the Appendix I, and tiger farming is to be strictly controlled with the breeding of tigers at farms only allowed if the breeding has conservation values. ENV were also very pleased to see that the Lao minister announced their determination in shutting down tiger farms in Laos, a major supplying source of illegal tigers to Vietnam.


During the COP17, Vietnam was criticized for lack of arrests and prosecutions for rhino horn crime. While expressing disappointment in the perception shared by many abroad depicting Vietnam as lax in its efforts to combat wildlife crime, ENV Director and Founder, Ms Vu Thi Quyen said, “We have made substantial progress over the past ten years in our efforts to address consumer demand for wildlife and tackle wildlife crime. However, we have major obstacles to overcome before we can declare victory.” Quyen called upon more substantive investigations leading to prosecution of “kingpins” at the top of criminal organizations that traffic in ivory, rhino horn, pangolins, and other high value wildlife, and called on the courts to apply strict punishment as permitted under the penal code as a means to deter criminal behavior.


CoP17 was the largest ever meeting of its kind in the 43 year history of CITES with 152 governments taking decisions on 62 species-listing proposals submitted by 64 countries. In total, over 3,500 people attended the conference which was described as “a game changer” by Secretary-General John E.Scanlon. A raft of decisions were agreed on regulating legal, sustainable and traceable trade in wildlife, including firmer action to combat illicit wildlife trafficking, higher protection to entire groups of species, targeted demand reduction strategies for illegally traded wildlife, and agreement on closer engagement with rural communities.


ENV’s Vice Director and Head of Policy and Legislation Department, Ms Ha Bui added, “ENV saw significant progress being made in Johannesburg, but we must now take this opportunity on the back of CoP17 to transform Vietnam from wildlife consumer, supplier and transit hub into a major player in eliminating wildlife crime. We will continue to work closely with, and support, law enforcement agencies in
Vietnam to ensure that wildlife crime violators are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” 

CITES Cop17 at a Glance


Rhino horn sales rejected: Swaziland made a bid for permission to sell off their 330kg stockpile of horn collected from naturally deceased animals and poachers in the hope of raising close to $10 million USD to help protect Swaziland's 73 remaining white rhino from poachers. They also sought to sell a further 20kg on an annual basis, raising $600,000 USD, by harvesting horns from living herds and re-growing horns from dehorned rhinos.


PHOTO: ENV director Vu Thi Quyen tells pro-trade advocates to “Keep their rhino horn out of her country!” during an encounter at the conference. However, their move for a relaxation of the international ban on trade was heavily defeated. The prevailing counter arguments were that lifting the rhino horn trade ban would make law enforcement almost impossible due to the presence of both legal and illegal rhino horn in the market place, threaten wild populations and fuel renewed consumer demand for rhino horn.


Pangolin uplisting: What is thought to be the world’s most illegally trafficked wild mammal – the pangolin - was granted greater protection by being uplisted from Appendix ll to Appendix l. While both native species of pangolins were previously fully protected under Vietnam’s wildlife protection law, Vietnam has become a major transit point for scales from African pangolins too. These African species will now also be afforded full protection as CITES Appendix I species under the new criminal code, due to be released in January.


Tiger farming restriction: CoP17 upheld Decision 14:69 to restrict tiger farming to conservation purposes only. China had attempted to remove the decision but was opposed by range states including India. Laos, where at least three major tiger farms with hundreds of captive tigers are located, used the conference to announce that they intended to begin the process of closing both tiger and bear the farms in the country. The resounding victory shows that almost all countries see the breeding of tigers for their parts and derivatives is a serious conservation threat to wild tigers.


Shark and devil ray uplisting: Despite opposition from Japan, Iceland and China, thresher and silky sharks and all devils ray are now   Appendix ll status. Being Appendix ll listed means control measures, including the sustainability of fisheries, are now in place for trade in these species. It is hoped this level of protection will help reverse the huge decline in populations as a result of demand for Asian shark fin soup and devil rays for traditional Chinese medicine.



For further information contact:

Tom Edgar
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About Education for Nature – Vietnam (www.envietnam.org l www.thiennhien.org)


Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV) was established in 2000 as Vietnam’s first non-governmental organization focused on the conservation of nature and protection of the environment. Our mission is to foster greater understanding amongst the Vietnamese public about the need to protect nature and wildlife. We employ creative and innovative strategies to influence public attitudes and mobilize Vietnamese citizens to live in balance with the natural world. We work closely with government partners to strengthen policy and legislation and directly support enforcement efforts in the protection of endangered species of national, regional and global significance.


ENV’S strategic approach to tackling the illegal wildlife trade


ENV focuses its activities on three major program areas that comprise ENV’s integrated strategic approach for addressing illegal wildlife trade. These include:


  • Reducing consumer demand for wildlife products through investment in a long-term and sustained effort to influence public attitudes and behavior
  • Strengthening enforcement through direct support and assistance to law enforcement agencies, and mobilizing active public participation in helping combat wildlife crime
  • Working with policy-makers to strengthen legislation, close loopholes in the law, and promote sound policy and decision-making relevant to wildlife protection.