Hanoi: Lucky to accidentally catch wildlife?

On October 12, 2011, Mr. Nguyen Ba Toan, a fisherman, caught a 25.5 kg Asiatic soft-shell turtle (Amyda cartilaginea), measuring 1 m in length and 0.6 m in width. Two days later, the turtle was sold to a Chinese man.

The case would not be serious if the turtle was not an endangered species, or if the fisherman showed a respect for the law, or even if Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) were more active in rescuing the animal. In fact, as soon as the case occurred, ENV officers came to Mr. Toan and explained the importance of the turtle. However, he and his family showed disrespect for the law by asking for compensation for his praised actions: “saving rare and precious animals”. After receiving a large quantity for selling turtle, he even complained that LEAs did not make a big enough effort to rescue the turtle. His implication was that he would have not sold it if LEAs had agreed to pay him money. Ultimately, Mr. Toan had no intention of catching the turtle, but then he committed a crime under the law of wildlife protection, by trading the turtle.

The question is “Where were the LEAs?” It is in no doubt that in this case, LEAs and law enforcers did not handle the situation effectively and neglected their responsibilities. The lack of action by LEAs, a general lack of knowledge about wildlife protection, and the attitudes of the mass media/public, are often against conservation progress, as well as international and Vietnamese legislative systems. The problem extends beyond this particular case, to a worrying future for Vietnam’s wildlife, when people feel proud and lucky to be breaking the law!

The Asiatic soft-shell turtle is protected in Annex II – CITES (Convention on international trade in endangered species of wild fauna and flora). Section b, Article 9, Clause 3 of Decision 99/2009/NĐ-CP “Decree on administration punishment in forestry and  forest’s product management and protection” regulates “administrative violation to animals belonged to Annex II – CITES will be considered as the administrative violation to animals belonged to Group IIA, IIB of Decree 32/2006/NĐ-CP”. (Group IIB is a group of endangered, rare and precious animals which are prevented from being exploited or used for trade.) According to Article b, Point 9, Clause 19 of Decree 99/2009/NĐ-CP, the ones who hunt, shoot, trap, catch, breed, keep in captive, kill illegally protected wildlife belonging to Group IIB or their parts which is worth  160.000.000VNĐ, will be fined from 400.000.000VNĐ to 500.000.000VNĐ.

(Case Ref. 3732/ENV)
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