Home News Anti-Poaching Vietnam: A Pivotal Port in the Stormy Wildlife Trafficking Trade

Vietnam: A Pivotal Port in the Stormy Wildlife Trafficking Trade

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Why a record-breaking ivory seizure is nothing to celebrate.

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) is committed to a holistic approach to conservation. Our funding supports on-the-ground projects directly combatting wildlife crime and protecting animals on the frontline. But, elsewhere, we’re also supporting vital undercover investigations into black market operations, whilst also campaigning for the strongest legal protection of species and strict enforcement.

Last week, Vietnam seized over seven tonnes of ivory, in the largest wildlife smuggling incident in years, according to authorities there. The shipment – almost all of which were ivory tusks, exposed a known smuggling route from Angola. Customs authorities in Haiphong City cited the illegal cargo had transited via Singapore.

The container was declared to customs as containing peanuts – perhaps ironically or deliberately as code, playing on the popular myth that elephants enjoy eating them. However, this image only came about after zoos and circuses across the West and Asia provided bags of peanuts for the public to feed elephants with. Elephants and peanuts do not meet in the wild, with the latter originating in South America, as well as being completely inadequate for them nutritionally.

This latest seizure comes on the back of another significant find in Vietnam last month, when over 600kg of ivory was confiscated at Lach Huyen port.

The trade of ivory, as well as other wildlife products such as pangolin scales, is illegal in Vietnam. Just last month, Vietnamese courts handed out one of their toughest convictions to date for wildlife trafficking. The man in question, found guilty of smuggling over ten tonnes of endangered animal parts, including rhino horn and elephant ivory from Africa, was sentenced to thirteen years imprisonment.

Yet this has done little to curb demand. These items, as well as others such as tiger parts and carcasses, are still finding their way past Vietnamese borders and beyond, with frightening frequency. It is for this reason that DSWF is working extensively in Vietnam, both to investigate and disrupt the illegal wildlife trade, and to reduce the demand that drives it. 

DSWF also recognise that these issues are complex. The operations we support in the many countries that have a differing view to ours on consumption and sustainable use of wildlife products, relies on maintaining communication and relationships with the right organisations and authoritative bodies. This enables us to carry out intelligence-led initiatives and deployments that expose the horrendous ongoing trade in wildlife, as this latest seizure shows. We directly fund undercover investigations into some of the world’s most prolific and high-profile wildlife trafficking syndicates. And it is with that information we’re able to offer governments, like in Vietnam, informed guidance on how best to dismantle and stop these illegal activities.

This aspect of our mission is some of the most vital, groundbreaking, and dangerous work we do. It’s also challenging to fund long-term, simply because we can release so few details about the confidential operations and ongoing investigations. If you’d like to support our essential work combatting wildlife crime, you can donate here.

Image credit: Russ MacLaughlin

With your help, we’ve been able to have a significant impact in reducing poaching in Vietnam, protecting wildlife such as the critically endangered Sunda pangolin, a much sought after species for the illegal trade.  Protection is provided by intensive ranger patrols, supported by DSWF, in Pu Mat National Park.  Almost twelve thousand kilometers have been covered by ranger foot patrols in the last six months alone. During this time, 17 arrests have been made, with 453 animal traps removed, and 62 illegal poaching camps discovered and subsequently destroyed. 13 further poacher arrests were made possible with PoacherCam surveillance. Thanks to your support, illegal activities have been reduced by 60% since 2018 in Pu Mat.  We are now expanding our anti-poaching work to cover three more national parks in Vietnam- Cat Tien, U Minh Thuong, and U Minh.

We are also working to reduce consumer demand for pangolins and other illegal wildlife in Vietnam and China.  Our campaigns inform the public in these countries about the crisis facing pangolins, and the health risks of consuming them.  In Vietnam, we are also campaigning to stop restaurants serving illegal wildlife.  In Vietnam, our ‘Guardians of the Wild’ public awareness campaign reached over 3.3 million people, emphasising the urgent need to protect pangolins. You can find out about our wider-reaching impact here.

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Andrew White
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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