Wild birds are sold at Thạnh Hoá Market in the southern province of Long An. — VNA/VNS Photo
HÀ NỘI — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc has suspended wildlife imports and ordered the closure of illegal wildlife markets.
The PM’s directive issued on Thursday stresses Việt Nam’s consistent view on tightening enforcement of national and international laws on wildlife to realise its international commitments.
Ministries, agencies and organisations in and out the country have made efforts to exercise laws, tackling wildlife trafficking, trade and consumption, but illegal activities relating to wildlife are still complex in some areas.
The activities increase the threat of the extinction of wildlife, harm ecological balances, human health and the nation’s prestige, the directive said.
The illegal hunting, seizing, slaughtering, transporting, trading and consuming of wildlife also increase the risk of disease transmission to people, poultry and cattle.
To strengthen the enforcement of the law on wildlife management, the PM directed the suspension of imports of wildlife, dead or alive, their eggs, larvas, parts, derivatives (except aquatic animals used for the production and processing of food and animal feed as specified in legal regulations, parts of wild animals already processed to be used as materials for drug production or final products) until new instructions are made.
For wildlife already licensed by foreign CITES authorities to export to Việt Nam, the customs agency at the border gate must require the wildlife be returned to the place of export.
The PM also ordered ministries to review legal documents to amend punishments for illegally consuming wildlife.
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development was asked to work with localities to review and oversee operations of licensed wildlife farms to identify the wildlife’s origins.
Data about farms with endangered wildlife must be collected and publicised on the ministry’s portal for effective monitoring.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment was asked to study and submit recommendations to the Government to better manage endangered and rare animals.
The Ministry of Public Security was asked to keep alert for wildlife law violations, especially transnational crimes.
The Defence Ministry will tighten patrols and keep a close eye on bordergates, cross-border roads and the marine borderline to prevent, detect and tackle violations.
Localities are required to abolish wildlife markets or trading sites, keep tight management of and strictly handle those illegally poaching, buying, selling, transporting, slaughtering, consuming, storing, advertising and abusing wildlife.
The document also calls on people, particularly officials, State employees and their families not to join in illegal hunting, catching, buying, selling, transporting, slaughtering, consuming, storing or advertising wildlife.
The PM instructed ministries and local authorities to enhance their supervision of the raising of wildlife, and intensify the fight against violations of wildlife-related regulations and laws.
In February this year, 14 non-profit nature and wildlife conservation organisations in Việt Nam including the World Wildlife Fund (WFF), Animals Asia Foundation, TRAFFIC, Save Vietnam Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Pan Nature urged the Government to "identify and close markets and other locations where illegal wildlife is on sale" in an open letter to PM Phúc.
The statement noted that past epidemics caused by other coronavirus strains like Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) were both linked to wild animals.
In early March, PM Phúc asked the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to draft an urgent directive to ban illegal wildlife trade and consumption.
A survey by WWF released in April showed there is strong support among the Vietnamese public for addressing the root causes of COVID-19 and potential future novel zoonotic disease outbreaks caused by illegal wildlife hunting, trade and consumption.
While questions remain about the exact origins of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has confirmed it is a zoonotic disease, meaning it jumped from wildlife to humans.
In February, China banned the trade and consumption of live wild animals for food as COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus first detected in Wuhan City, where cases were linked to a wildlife market.
Researchers agree that the SARS-CoV-2 virus probably originated in horseshoe bats. The virus could have jumped directly from bats to people and evolved over time into the current pandemic strain, or it could have passed through intermediate animals, The Nature science journal reported.
It also reported that researchers say the wildlife trade in which many animals come into close proximity with each other and people offers the perfect conditions for a virus in one species to spill over into another. — VNS