One the eve of the opening of the latest CITES session the wildlife group WWF has released a report that shows Vietnam is the worse country for the illegal wildlife trade. In the traffic light system used by the WWF to rank countries Vietnam scored a red in trade in rhino and tigers with a yellow card for elephants.
The new report called Wildlife Crime Scorecard looked at 23 range nations as well as transit countries and the final consumer countries of parts for three species – elephant, rhino and tiger.
“It is time for Viet Nam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa, and that it must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade. Viet Nam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn,” said Elisabeth McLellan, Global Species Programme manager at WWF.
A number of Vietnamese people have been arrested over recent years in South Africa for being involved in rhino smuggling. Even some Vietnamese diplomats have been caught involved in the trade.
China is given a yellow card for its involvement in the elephant ivory trade. The country has been highlighted as having inadequate management of its legal ivory market and this offers a conduit for illegally poached ivory to find a legitimate market.
The WWF reports calls on the Chinese government to dramatically improve its enforcement of the ivory market. It also calls on the government to remind its workers involved in major projects in Africa that anyone caught importing illegal wildlife products into China would be prosecuted, and if convicted, severely penalized.
While China got a yellow card for the ivory trade Thailand scored a red due to a legal loop-hole that makes it easy for illegally poached ivory to enter the luxury goods market.
“In Thailand, illegal African ivory is being openly sold in up-scale boutiques that cater to unsuspecting tourists. Governments will be taking up this troubling issue this week. So far Thailand has not responded adequately to concerns and, with the amount of ivory of uncertain origin in circulation, the only credible option at this stage is a ban on ivory trade,” McLellan said.
There is good news in the report as well. The WWF commends the countries from central Africa who recently signed a multinational agreement to tackle poaching.
“Although most Central African countries receive yellow or red scores for elephants, there are some encouraging signals. Last month Gabon burned its entire ivory stockpile, to ensure that no tusks would leak into illegal trade, and President Ali Bongo committed to both increasing protections in the country’s parks and to ensuring that those committing wildlife crimes are prosecuted and sent to prison,” said WWF Global Species Programme manager Wendy Elliott.
The brightest spot of the report though goes to Nepal which last year, 2011, saw no losses to its rhino population due to improvements to anti-poaching and other law enforcement efforts.
WWF International: Wildlife Crime Scorecard (pdf).