Hanoi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Vietnam holds the dubious record of worst offender in crimes against nature, especially animals, this according to the first wildlife crime report issued by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) a few days ago. The study examined how well 23 Asian and African countries protect specials at risk, most notably rhinos, tigers and elephants. China, Laos and Thailand are among the worst as poaching and the black market lead to the slaughter of various species. In Asia, rhino horn is a much sought-after ingredient in traditional medicine, whilst ivory from elephant tusk has been regarded as a precious decoration for centuries.
The report by Swiss-based WFF focused on countries where threatened animals live in the wild or are traded or consumed. The illegal trade in these animals is worth an estimated US$ 8 billion to US$ 10 billion per year in Southeast Asia alone, this according to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
Vietnam is "the major destination" for rhino horns trafficked from South Africa, the WWF report noted.
Hanoi's 2007 decision to legalise tiger farms on a pilot basis "undermined" the country's efforts to protect one of the most endangered species. As few as 3,200 tigers remain in the world with at least 200 tiger carcasses detected each year on the global black market.
For WWF's global species programme manager Elizabeth McLellan, "It is time for Vietnam to [. . .] crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade."
However, the authorities in Hanoi do not seem interested in the problem or even in the fact that Vietnamese diplomats and government officials have been arrested or implicated in South Africa for trying to buy rhino horns.
Still, some bright spots do exist around the world with some nations, like India and Nepal, actively cracking down on the illegal trade of rhinos, tigers and elephants.
For example, the Indian Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling banning tourism in "core zones" of more than 40 of the country's federal tiger reserves. In it, the justices warned that states that failed to implement the ban would face hefty fines.