With the recent raid of Thailand’s so-called “Tiger Temple”, the world’s attention once again focused on wildlife trafficking. With the gruesome discovery of frozen tiger cubs and allegations of animal abuse and wildlife trafficking, it’s important to view encouraging news in this arena.
Late last month, the U.S. State Department announced a five-year partnership with Vietnam in which both countries would work to combat wildlife trafficking.
Vietnam has seen a surge in rhino horn consumption in recent years – with an unprecedented 1,338 rhinos slaughtered just last year for their horns.
The US.gov website states:
The United States and Vietnam recognized that the illegal trade in and illegal consumption of wildlife and wildlife products are threatening the world’s irreplaceable biodiversity and adversely impacting communities and economies around the globe. Both countries acknowledged that wildlife trafficking is a transnational criminal enterprise that generates billions of dollars of illicit revenue annually, threatens national security, undermines the rule of law, and facilitates the spread of emerging infectious diseases.
Under this Partnership, Vietnam and the United States are committed to strengthening their individual and collective efforts to combat wildlife trafficking and to improving collaboration in four strategic areas:
- Reduce Consumer Demand for and Consumption of Illegal Wildlife and Wildlife Products
- Strengthen Wildlife Law Enforcement and Prosecution
- Improve and Implement the Legal Frameworks for Wildlife Crime
- Bolster International Cooperation
The two countries plan to collaborate with the private sector, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and the scientific community, as well as other local and international partners. They’ll utilize joint training, technical exchanges, shared information, public education and demand reduction campaigns.
Although encouraging, the language of the agreement is, as with most government documents, a bit nebulous. It lacks in substantive goals with which to hole themselves accountable. Examples are rampant throughout the document:
- Both sides agreed to consider measures to reduce the domestic sale and commercial breeding of endangered species of wild fauna and reduce public demand for endangered wildlife.
- Both countries pledged to treat wildlife trafficking as a serious crime in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution A/RES/69/314 on Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife.
- The United States also intends to support the protection of endangered and threatened species in Vietnam through a new conservation program in key provinces.
Despite the fundamental lack of specifics, it’s heartening that these two former countries have taken this important step together. Add to this the upcoming third annual Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade to be held in Hanoi this November and you begin to see signs of some leadership. Hopefully this will inspire other countries to step up – or step out in larger fashion – to substantively efforts to curb what has become devastating decimation of the world’s wildlife population.