ENV activities: 2009
ENV Wildlife Crime Bulletin (November 2009)
ENV’s Wildlife Crime Bulletin provides information, recommendations and analysis of efforts to combat wildlife crime in Vietnam and is distributed to enforcement agencies throughout the country. The feature story in this edition looks at the illegal exploitation of Ha Long Bay bears and how this impacts upon Ha Long’s image as a world tourist destination. The Bulletin also explores the blurry line between tiger conservation and trade. As in previous editions, the wildlife crime log section summarizes cases of interest, highlights successfully handled cases, and shows just how important public participation is in combating wildlife crime.
Green Grants protect nature and the environment in Vietnam
ENV, in co-ordination with Toyota Motor Vietnam (TMV), awarded ‘Green Grants’ to six protected areas in Vietnam. The grants aim to support staff in carrying out environmental education activities in the buffer zones of their national parks or nature reserves.
New Primate Poster Shows the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Posted Nov 6, 2009)
School children scour over the poster looking for illegal activities to report to the local ranger. A telephone waits on the desk. One team of children count five violations; a macaque in a cage outside a café, a gibbon on a chain at a fancy resort, a hunter trying to shoot a langur in a tree, and a truck load of wild macaques heading for the Chinese border. But the other group is quicker, the group’s leader racing for the phone reporting what his team has discovered.
A local teacher, playing the part of the ranger, plays along, thanking the child for their report. The poster is part of the new primate lesson plan developed by ENV and used for the first time in schools in August.
The lesson plan promotes awareness, but also aims to encourage children and their families to 'get involved' and take action to help protect their endangered primates including reporting hunters and traders, helping educate others, and preserving habitat for gibbons and langurs.
Vietnam Bear Taskforce Unifies NGO Efforts to End Bear Farming
NGOs actively working on bear protection and conservation issues have banded together to form the Vietnam Bear Task Force (BTF). In October, the group met to develop a unified response to the October 2 raid by Environmental Police on a bear bile tourism operation in Quang Ninh. The BTF produced a letter to the government urging functional agencies to confiscate bears from the business and administer harsh punishment to owners, sending a strong message to other bear bile tourism operations occurring in the province.
Two Tigers Seized in Hanoi (October 16, 2009)
On October 16, Hanoi Environmental Police made another important tiger bust, seizing two frozen tigers (129kg total) from a taxi and arresting four suspects. The tigers were reportedly being transported to from Thanh Hoa province where suspects claimed they were purchased from a well-known tiger supplier. According to ENV investigators, the Thanh Hoa trader resides in the very same village as one of the country’s six “tiger farmers” that were recently registered to keep illegal tigers found in their possession for conservation breeding purposes.
ENV is working with authorities to clarify links between the recent seizure and the Thanh Hoa farm where ENV investigators believe the tigers originated, and if confirmed, will urge authorities to shut down the Thanh Hoa farm, confiscate tigers there, and prosecute the farm owner.
Another Bear Confiscated (October 16, 2009)
In October, a Malayan sun bear (Helarctos malayanus), was confiscated from a petrol station in the southern province of Hau Giang after many months of efforts by ENV’s Major Crimes Officer, Nguyen Ngoc Diep and countless correspondence and discussions with authorities aimed at getting the unregistered and illegal bear turned over to authorities. The case marks another positive example of a provincial government acting decisively in their dealing with illegal bears that are found. In the past, some other provinces have chosen to allow owners to keep illegal bears, interpreting the law lightly, and thereby setting a poor precedent to others that might choose to buy and keep an illegal bear. However, recently, a number of provinces have demonstrated their conviction to end illegal bear trade by confiscating illegal bears that they find. Hau Giang joins the ranks of Yen Bai, Dien Bien, Can Tho, and Hanoi in setting a positive example for other provinces to follow.
The Hau Giang bear was transferred to Wildlife at Risk’s Cu Chi Wildlife Rescue Center in Ho Chi Minh. The case was first reported to ENV by a foreign advisor to Wildlife at Risk.
Message aimed at Korean tourists (August 31, 2009)
Over the past year, ENV has uncovered the secret world of Korean Bear Tourism in Ha Long Bay. Working with Environmental Police and later conducting surveillance outside a number of large bear farms located just a few miles from scenic Ha Long Bay, ENV has documented busloads of Korean tourists visiting bear farms where they witness a bear bile extraction, taste wine, and are encouraged to buy illegal bear products. Unwittingly, the tourists then take the illegal products home to Korea at the end of their visit, which is in direct violation of CITES regulations.
In addition to working to shut down these illegal tourist operations, ENV has sought to raise awareness amongst Korean tourists and let them know that buying and smuggling bear products is a violation of the law.
ENV is working with Korean NGOs to increase awareness about the issue in Korea and have major Korean Airlines warn customers before arrival in Vietnam. ENV has also targeted hotels where Korean tourists stay in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, providing Korean language warnings and encouraging tourists to avoid bear farms during their visit. In Hanoi, the Melia, Fortuna, and Sheraton hotels are displaying advisories for their clients.
As ENV targets tourists with warnings, we remain hopeful that the Quang Ninh provincial government will take appropriate steps to end the illegal activities at bear farms in their province, and preserve the sanctity of Ha Long Bay as a World Heritage Site from the shadow of illegal bear farms just down the road.
ENV staff document bear bile extraction (August 28, 2009)
On Sunday last week, ENV staff infiltrated a bear farm in the Phuc Tho district of Hanoi and documented on film a bear bile extraction as customers watched. More than 4000 bears are currently registered as being on bear farms in Vietnam. The owners are not permitted to extract and sell bear bile according to the law, but such practices are common at most bear farms. The Forest Protection Department has a plan to phase out bear farming by preventing new bears from ending up on farms, punishing violators and confiscating bears from farmers that are caught breaking the law. In practice, however, few bears are confiscated and farmers receive a slap on the wrist at best, and return to violating the law.
It is a frustrating situation, says Van Anh, head of ENV’s Wildlife Crime Program. “We have had about 200 new cases where bears have been discovered on farms since the freeze on new bears was put in place.” Van Anh notes that the positive side of the story is that some provinces are taking the issue seriously. Provinces such as Yen Bai, Can Tho, and Dien Bien have confiscated illegal bears from owners. “These positive examples clearly demonstrate that some provincial governments are doing their best to achieve the spirit of the law by preventing new bears from ending up on farms.” Van Anh says, “We can only hope that other provinces will see and understand the importance of taking active measures to end bear farming in their provinces too.”
CITES calls on members to restrict development of tiger farms (August 27, 2009)
Will commercial tiger farming become a reality in Vietnam? ENV is working hard to arrest the development of tiger farming in Vietnam, avoiding the difficulties that China now faces regulating some 5,000 captive tigers in the hands of anxious farmers who wish to lift the ban on commercial trade of tiger parts.
A recent CITES decision calls on member states with captive tiger populations to “restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers.”
Last week, as part of a broader campaign to end tiger trade in Vietnam, ENV distributed a Vietnamese language version of the decision to key members of the government. This included local leaders representing provinces where all five of Vietnam’s registered tiger farms are located.
ENV is working closely with government leaders and law enforcement agencies to support and strengthen government efforts to eliminate the illegal tiger trade in Vietnam.
Urge your Vietnamese friends and co-workers to visit our website and pledge to protect Vietnam’s bears! In 2008, we received more than 20,000 pledges not to use or consume bears bile from events hosted by ENV. This year, we have taken our pledge campaign online. Our online goal this year is 5,000 pledges! Click our link and let us know that you wish to protect bears! http://www.thiennhien.org/
Go Green training supports awareness activities in Vietnam’s protected areas (August 24, 2009)
ENV hosted its fourth “Go Green” environmental education training course for protected area staff over ten days in August. Twelve staff from six parks and nature reserves attended the intensive course held at ENV’s National Environment Education Training Center at Tam Dao National Park. Participants attending the course are eligible for “Green Grants” that will enable them to carry out environmental education projects that they designed during the course. The training is part of a program administered by ENV in partnership with Toyota Motor Vietnam. Since 2000, ENV has carried out 61 environmental communication training courses for staff and stakeholders at 37 National Parks and Nature Reserves in Vietnam.
Mobile Bear Exhibition at Ho Tay Water Park (August 22, 2009)
On the 21st and 22nd of August, ENV hosted our mobile “Bring Peace to Vietnam’s Bears” exhibition at the Ho Tay Water Park. The purpose of the event was to raise awareness amongst the public about the need to protect Vietnam’s bears and encourage the public not to use or consume bear products.
ENV has carried out similar exhibits in major cities throughout Vietnam.
Go Green in Phong Nha Ke Bang! (August 1, 2009)
Educators from the National Park and Youth Union have established nature clubs in communities bordering Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park thanks in part to training carried out by ENV and a small grant from the joint ENV-Toyota Motor Vietnam’s Go Green program. Five clubs have been established in local communities, each with about 30-40 members, and last week, the park launched “The Voice of Nature”, a publication about the values and threats to the park that will be distributed through the nature clubs. The Phong Nha – Ke Bang program is just one of dozens of environmental education initiatives through which ENV has provided training and technical support. Late last year, seven programs received small grants as part of a new initiative by ENV and Toyota to support local efforts aimed at protecting Vietnam’s national parks and nature reserves.
Press Release: Another tiger trader nabbed by police (July 21, 2009)
ENV congratulates the fine work of the Hanoi Environmental Police in this week’s seizure of the frozen remains of a tiger, and bones from at least one other tiger. The tigers were seized from a taxi in Hanoi on the morning of July 16. Three men have been arrested in connection with the case including the alleged owner of the tiger, the driver of the taxi, and an accomplice.
Hundreds of bears need protecting (July 13, 2009)
This is a translation of a news article from the local press on the operation of bear farms in Quang Ninh province. The article highlights illegal bear tourism activities at one of the farms.
Press Release: Fashion students help protect Vietnam's wildlife (July 10, 2009)
ENV, in cooperation with Boo Skate Shops and the London Centre for Fashion Studies (LCFS) - Hanoi, launched a range of special t-shirts. The t-shirts were designed to convey the message about the importance of protecting Vietnam’s endangered species of wildlife. The designs by the LCFS students highlight many of the threats to Vietnam’s wildlife such as hunting, wildlife trade, and the illegal bear bile industry.
Press Release: Go Green Training Focuses on Environmental Education at Protected Areas (June 2, 2009)
ENV carried out its fourth “Go Green” training course for staff from protected areas in May. Participants who attended the ten-day course are eligible for “Green Grants”, which will enable them to carry out environmental education projects that they designed during the course. The training is part of a program administered by ENV in partnership with Toyota Motor Vietnam.
Press Release: The tiger, king of the jungle, featured in Green Forest (March 2009)
The latest issue of Green Forest features Vietnam’s tigers. Also featured in this latest issue are mangrove forests, pesticides, and Kon Ka Kinh National Park. There are also lots of other great inputs from student readers and of course, our regular Ranger Bear in action.
March 10, 2009- Press Release: Regional NGOs unite against wildlife crime
Asian nationals working to combat wildlife crime from NGOs in nine countries met last week in Hanoi to devise ways that NGOs can assist their governments in tackling trans-border wildlife crime. The meeting, hosted by ENV, was the first such meeting in the region, and is intended to support further development and strengthening of the ASEAN Wildlife Crime Network (ASEAN WEN).
Police to act on smuggling of bears into Vietnam (Posted February 2, 2009)
A brief summary on the growing role of Environmental Police in efforts to combat smuggling of bears into Vietnam.