Recently, illegally hunting, catching, trading, using and consuming wildlife, especially endangered, rare wildlife, has been complicated in many places. Some markets in the uplands or in the Mekong Delta are still openly trading wildlife with species such as varan, pheasant, phasianidae, jungle fowl and other species of birds, leading to the extinction of many endangered wildlife species.
In order to understand the state of management of wildlife in recent time and propose solutions to enhance the effectiveness in control, management and protection of wildlife, the Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine (VEM) had an interview with Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu - Deputy Director of Forest Protection Department (Vietnam Administration of Forestry, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)) on this issue.
Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu - Deputy Director of Forest Protection Department (Vietnam Administration of Forestry, MARD)
VEM: Could you tell us about violations in illegally trading and consuming wildlife throughout the country in recent time?
Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu: Recently, illegally trading wildlife in Việt Nam has become complicated, offenders are becoming more and more sophisticated, using many tricks to deal with the functional forces. According to statistics, in recent years, the national forest protection force has discovered and dealt with 466 cases of violation of management, protection of endangered, rare wildlife (239 cases in 2018 and 227 cases in 2019).
From the beginning of 2020 until now, the situation of acute respiratory infections caused by new strain of Corona virus has greatly affected extracting, trading and consuming wildlife in the whole country, so it has reduced the number of violations, both in terms of scale and severity of violations. Control of illegally transporting wildlife into Việt Nam has been strengthened by the functional forces on all 3 road, sea and air routes; Violating hot spots, wholesale markets often selling, slaughtering wildlife have basically been propagated, prevented and dealt with by local authorities. Besides, people's awareness about COVID-19 disease prevention and control has gradually changed the habit of consuming and using wildlife, thereby reducing illegally extracting, trading and transporting wildlife. As a result, in the first 4 months of 2020, the national forest protection force has discovered and dealt with 45 cases of violation of management, protection of endangered, rare wildlife; Compared to the same period in 2019, reduced 8 cases (equivalent to 16.6%); violations are basically small and less serious.
However, violations of illegally trading wildlife also take place with sophisticated tricks such as mixing illegally naturally-derived wildlife with legally breeding wildlife, or in other goods for transport, consumption... Especially, the offenders use the internet to conduct transactions on illegally trading wildlife, making it difficult for the functional forces to discover, investigate and dealt with violations.
Facing this situation, the Forest Protection Department has advised the Vietnam Administration of Forestry with many solutions to manage and seriously implement commitments in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES); directed the local forest protection force to well perform the task of advising and strengthening the fight to prevent illegally trading, processing and consuming wildlife.
VEM: Are current sanctions deterrent enough for violations of legal provisions on illegally hunting, catching, trading and transporting wildlife?
Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu: For many years, the Government has mobilized significant resources for the biodiversity conservation, preventing and dealing with illegally hunting, trading and consuming wildlife; developed and improved the system of legal documents related to the management of wildlife species, control of extracting, breeding, processing and trading wildlife in accordance with international treaties. In particular, the Law on Biodiversity of 2008, the Law on Investment of 2014, the Criminal Code of 2015, amended in 2017 and the Law on Forestry of 2017, which clearly stipulate prohibited acts such as “Illegally hunting, shooting, catching, caging, slaughtering, storing, transporting or trading in forest animals, illegally collecting specimens of forest plants or animal species”. Accordingly, the Criminal Code of 2015 (amended and supplemented in 2017) clearly stipulates two crimes about wildlife, including: Offences against regulations on management and protection of wild animals (Article 234); Offences against regulations on protection of endangered, rare wild animals (Article 244) which shall face a penalty to 15 years' imprisonment; be liable to a fine to VND 2 billion for individuals and VND 15 billion for legal entities.
In addition, the Prime Minister also issued Directive No. 03/CT-TTg of 20 February 2014 on strengthening the direction and implementation of solutions to control and conserve endangered, rare wildlife species and Directive No. 28/CT-TTg of 17 September 2016 on a number of urgent solutions to prevent and fight illegal acts against wildlife species.
Recently, management of wildlife continued to be strengthened through the Government’s Decree No. 06/2019/ND-CP of 22 January 2019 on management of endangered, rare forest plants and animals and implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora; Government’s Decree No. 64/2019/ND-CP of 16 July 2019 on amending Article 7, Government’s Decree No. 160/2013/ND-CP of 12 November 2013 on criteria for identifying species and managing species on the List of endangered, rare species prioritized for protection. In particular, on 25 April 2019, the Government issued Decree No. 35/2019/ND-CP stipulating the sanctions against administrative violations in the forestry sector in which illegally hunting, catching, caging, slaughtering (Article 21), transporting (Article 22), storing, trading, and processing (Article 23) forest animals, products of forest animals, or parts which are inseparable from the life of forest animals will be fined up to VND 400 million for individuals and 800 million for organizations.
With the increase in penalties, it is important in the effort to protect wildlife because the practice shows that the application of strict criminal sanctions will increase general deterrence, prevention and contribute to reducing hunting, trading and consuming wildlife.
VEM: Although management of wildlife has been increasingly strengthened, illegally hunting, trading, transporting and consuming endangered and rare wildlife and animals still occur complicated, so what is the cause?
Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu: Illegally extracting, trading, transporting and consuming wildlife species is still complicated in some places, resulting from the following reasons: High profit from illegally trading wildlife (to be ranked behind, or nearly equal to smuggling weapons, drugs and trafficking humans), leading to a complex situation of illegally trading wildlife; Offenders use many sophisticated tricks to bypass the functional forces. In addition, with its geographical location adjacent to Laos, Cambodia and China with many border gates and seaports, Việt Nam is easily becoming a transnational transshipment point for wildlife. Meanwhile, a part of people are not fully aware, there is still a habit of using wildlife products, especially endangered, rare species.
Although the system of legal documents on illegally hunting, trading and transporting wildlife species has been completed, there are still many overlaps and inadequacies, making it difficult for Law enforcement forces in process of dealing with violations. Besides, there are also legal loopholes for offenders violating wildlife to take advantage. Also, the inspection and supervision in the process of farming wildlife in some localities still faces many difficulties, leading to some people taking advantage of the farming records to legalize wild-caught species. At present, Việt Nam has not had adequate studies on the growth and reproduction of some wildlife species in captive environment, making it difficult for management and supervision. In particular, the involvement of grassroots authorities in some places has not been really strong, leading to illegally trading, transporting and consuming wildlife still occured.
VEM: Facing the danger of epidemics due to the transmission of viruses from wildlife to humans such as the COVID-19 pandemic, what do you think should be done to strengthen the management and control of trading, transporting and storing wildlife?
Mr. Nguyễn Quốc Hiệu: It can be said that illegally trading, transporting and consuming wildlife has the potential to spread diseases to humans such as SARS, H5N1 virus and recently SARS-CoV-2, threatening public health and the country's economic development. In order to strengthen the enforcement of laws on the management, control of trading and consuming wildlife in the new situation, MARD has submitted to the Prime Minister a Draft Directive on a number of urgent solutions for management of wildlife and the Directive requires MARD, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Industry and Trade, Ministry of Education and Training, Ministry of Information and Communications, Ministry of Defense and Provincial People's Committees to synchronously implement solutions to prevent illegally trading and consuming wildlife.
In addition, it is necessary to carry out the following tasks: Continue strictly implementing the Direction of the Prime Minister (Directive No. 03/CT-TTg of 20 February 2014; Directive No. 28/CT-TTg and most recently Directive No. 05/CT-TTg of 28 January 2020 on the prevention and control of acute respiratory infections caused by new strain of coronavirus); Advise the Government to propose Ministries and sectors to review current legal documents to strictly manage trading and consuming wildlife in accordance with the new situation, especially contents related to consuming wildlife which are currently not stipulated in the legal documents. Agencies, committees, authorities and social sectors from Central to local levels need to strengthen coordination to fight, prevent, resolutely and strictly deal with acts of illegally extracting, caging, storing, processing, trading, importing and exporting wildlife, including subjects advertising, buying and selling wildlife on the internet; strictly control e-commerce activities related to wildlife.
Also promote the propagation and dissemination of laws on protection of wildlife to the community, changing the habits of consuming and using wildlife and wildlife products; research and promote products to replace endangered, rare wildlife products; publicize information on offenders on the mass media, or adjudicate cases of wildlife at the places of violation to increase deterrence, prevention of violations and crimes; strengthen close inspection and supervision of domestic farms, as well as border gates, not allow illegally importing wildlife to Việt Nam, or taking advantage of farming records to legalize wildlife.
VEM: Sincerely thank you!
Giáng Hương (Implemented)
(Nguồn: Bài đăng trên Tạp chí Môi trường số Chuyên đề Tiếng Anh II/2020)