With the crisis of poaching of rhinos with no signs of decrease, Vietnam should end up with the unstoppable illegal trade of rhino horn or face sanctions, says WWF at the most important conference on wildlife that begins this Saturday, September 24th in south Africa.
Vietnam is the largest global market for the illegal trade of rhino horn, so that his failure to close the illegal trade of species, disrupting illegal trafficking networks and prosecuting traffickers, shall constitute one of the foci of attention in Johannesburg (south Africa), the headquarters of the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP17) of the Convention on International Trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora (CITES) to be held from 24 September to 5 October.
This will be the largest meeting of CITES of the history with the participation of 181 countries and a record number of issues for negotiation, including issues related to trade in wild species such as elephants. However, since it is held in south Africa, which has lost about 6,000 rhinos at the hands of poachers since 2007, including more than 700 so far this year, the issues related to the rhinos will have a place very high on the agenda.
Despite evidence of the widespread sale of rhino horn is made openly in Vietnam, the authorities have made seizures relevant to this product within their borders, and neither have reported any type of infringement.
“The poor track record of compliance with the law of Vietnam speaks for itself: put an end to the illegal trade of rhino horns and help save the rhinos of Africa is not clearly a priority for the government,” said Ginette Hemley, head of the Delegation of WWF at CITES. “With an average of three rhinos killed poached every day, there is no time to lose. CITES should adopt a posture stiff with Vietnam and require you to apply urgent measures are critical to tackling the illegal trade in rhino horn, or face the appropriate sanctions.” (See positioning of WWF before the COP17 of CITES)
In particular, Vietnam must agree to enact new regulations to consider the crimes against nature as “serious crime”, with a minimum penalty of four years in prison; to legislate, to consider the rhino horn fake as real rhino horn for the purposes of implementation and enforcement of the laws and to put as an objective the processing of the illegal trade and the traffickers. Otherwise, CITES should request countries to ban trade with Vietnam, of all the wild species listed in CITES.
In addition to Vietnam, CITES should also force other countries in the chain of the illegal trade of rhino horn to do more. South africa has devoted considerable resources to stop the poachers with some success, but it is imperative to put in place interventions to more long-term, involving local communities and focusing on the international criminal networks. Mozambique must increase its efforts to prevent smugglers from using its territory, and China, another major consumer of rhino horn, you have to focus on the reduction of the demand.
According to Luis Suarez, head of Species Programme of WWF Spain: ‘The prohibitions of international trade are key to saving the wild life but, without efforts rigorous to prevent the poaching and illegal traffic, are never sufficient by themselves’. And he adds: ‘The organized crime networks will continue pointing to the endangered species, as we have seen with rhinos, elephants and tigers’.
Illegal trade of ivory
The illegal trade in ivory will also be a major topic at the conference. With tens of thousands of african elephants dead poached each year, and a ban of ivory trade to international already in force, CITES should focus on the necessary measures to effectively implement the ban and deal with the core issues behind the illegal ivory trade: corruption, inadequate laws and lack of implementation in the countries along the trade chain of illegal ivory, in addition to an uncontrolled demand in Asia.
In particular, it is critical that the 19 african and asian countries most involved in the illegal ivory trade implemented in a rigorous manner their national action plans on ivory under the CITES convention, that are beginning to give results. Independent reviews of the progress of each country are needed and the countries that do not act must also face the threat of sanctions from CITES.
Less protection to the peregrine falcon and the mountain zebra Cape
The conference will also provide an opportunity for countries to reduce restrictions on the trade of some species such as the peregrine falcon and the mountain zebra of the Cape, that have been recovered since they were placed on Appendix I of CITES, the highest level of trade protection.
“The recovery of species like the peregrine falcon shows that CITES can work, and that populations can be recovered thanks to the prohibitions of their trade and to conservation efforts,” said Hemley.