Vietnam is stepping up the fight against the trafficking of pangolins, the most poached mammal in the world and suspected of having played a role in the transmission of the coronavirus to humans.
Over the first six months of 2020, arrests of traffickers of wild animals, in particular pangolins, have increased sharply, welcomes the NGO Education for Nature in Vietnam (ENV).
97% of cases detected by the authorities have led to arrests, compared to 87% on average in previous years, and seizures are increasing significantly.
“Vietnam has made great progress” in the fight against this crime, “by strengthening its legislative arsenal”, welcomes the organization.
The country revised a law protecting endangered species in 2018 that toughened penalties. From now on, this crime is punishable by 15 years in prison and fines of more than 550,000 euros.
Pangolins, elephants, tigers, bears: Vietnam is a hub for the consumption and illegal trafficking of wildlife in Asia.
Pangolin scales are believed to act on arthritis, ulcers, tumors and menstrual pain in traditional Chinese medicine, virtues that have never been scientifically established.
Between 2014 and 2018, the equivalent of 370,000 pangolins were seized around the world, suggesting millions were trafficked and killed, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Tran Van Truong, a guard in a national park near Ninh Binh in the north of the country, remembers finding more than a hundred tied up in a bag, most of them “dead of exhaustion”. His organization has managed to save 2,000 over the past six years.
The animal is suspected of having played a role in the transmission to humans of the coronavirus which appeared in China at the end of 2019.
Beijing has since withdrawn the pangolin from the Chinese pharmacopoeia.
And, this summer, as the epidemic spread across the world, Hanoi urged courts to enforce the law on trafficking in wildlife, a potential source of disease.
“Some traffickers because of corruption are released or still benefit from a reduced sentence”, deplores Bui Thi Ha, vice-director of ENV.
The Vietnamese government has also stepped up border controls and launched a campaign to verify that pharmacies do not sell drugs containing animals from illegal trade.