A conservation group ranked Vietnam the worst country for wildlife crime yesterday in its first report on how well 23 Asian and African countries protect rhinos, tigers and elephants.
WWF said Vietnam’s tiger farms and its citizens’ voracious appetite for rhino horn as a supposed cure-all helped put it at the top of the list. China, widely viewed as the world’s largest market for illegal wildlife products, finished a close second, and Laos was third.
The WWF focused its report on countries where the threatened animals live in the wild or are traded or consumed. Many consumers in Asia demand illegal wildlife products for their purported, if unproven, medicinal properties. The Brookings Institution has said the illegal wildlife trade is worth about $8 billion per year in Southeast Asia alone.
WWF said Vietnam is “the major destination” for rhino horns trafficked from South Africa, where 448 rhinos were poached last year.
WWF also said Vietnam’s 2007 decision to legalise tiger farms on a pilot basis has “undermined” the country’s efforts to police illegal trade in tiger products.
Vietnam has 11 registered tiger farms.
A controversy erupted in May when international wildlife experts learned that Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development had proposed allowing parts of tigers that die in captivity to be made into medicine on a pilot basis. Wildlife advocacy groups said the proposal was designed to effectively legalise trade in tiger products. An official at prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s office told AP this month that Dung had rejected the proposal.