ENV Declares War on Pangolin Crime
Hanoi, January 21, 2016, as an urgent response to the massive and unabated exploitation of pangolins to meet demand from consumers in Vietnam and China, Education for Nature - Vietnam (ENV) is taking the unprecedented step of declaring war on pangolin crime. We are calling on the support of our government partners, law enforcement, and the public to put a swift and comprehensive end to all consumption and trade of pangolins and their scales in Vietnam.
According to IUCN, pangolins are the most poached and trafficked animal on earth, with an estimated one million animals being illegally traded in the last 10 years. This trade is driven primarily by Vietnam and China, who are considered the two most critical links in the transnational chain of illegal pangolin traders.
In October 2015, Customs officials in Guangdong, China, seized 11.5 tons of pangolin carcasses, the largest seizure of pangolins in the past five years. Over the last five months alone, there have been at least seven tons of pangolin scales confiscated at ports in Vietnam, in addition to 16 cases, documented by ENV, involving close to a ton of live pangolins seized from smugglers.
Furthermore, these recent seizures have revealed a large and growing international trade in African pangolins, poached to satisfy demand in Asia.
“It is time to take a stand,” says Vu Thi Quyen, Executive Director of ENV. “By declaring war on pangolin crime, we are committing ourselves to a concerted effort, in partnership with government and the public, to protect pangolins. We are fast approaching the point in time where Vietnam no longer plays a role in the illegal trade of pangolins, either as consumer or accomplice.”
Ms. Quyen has outlined ENV’s declaration of war on pangolin crime to encompass four critical components:
- ENV is calling upon local authorities to take aggressive action in addressing pangolin crime at the consumer level by strictly enforcing the laws prohibiting the advertising or sale of pangolins or their parts and derivatives in consumer establishments like restaurants, bars, and traditional medicine shops. Furthermore, ENV will exercise a “zero tolerance” policy, whereby compliance is secured from each and every business for which violations have been reported.
- ENV is launching a sustained campaign to mobilize the public support through the media, social networking, and our national Wildlife Protection Network of Volunteers to report pangolin crimes and help educate consumers
- ENV is calling upon law enforcement, prosecutors, and the courts to vigorously pursue and punish criminals engaged in the trafficking of pangolins and successfully dismantle organized criminal networks that traffic pangolins into or through Vietnam.
- ENV is calling upon provincial governments to prevent and prohibit any auctioning of pangolins back into the trade following seizures as this practice is both in conflict with the law and is directly supporting the illegal trafficking and trade of pangolins
ENV’s efforts to combat pangolin crimes were first initiated in 2005 with the establishment of ENV’s Wildlife Crime Unit. Now, in 2016, Ms. Quyen is emphasizing the need for broader public and government support to reduce and terminate Vietnam’s role as villains in the trafficking and trade of pangolins.
“This means stopping consumption 100% and going after major traffickers and their networks,” says Ms. Quyen. “Merely seizing pangolins on the roads and arresting drivers and low-level traders will not make the difference that is needed.”
“We need to actively pursue those at the top, the people who run these criminal enterprises and show them and their associates that they are not above the law, and that they will be prosecuted and imprisoned for their crimes against nature and against Vietnam. Enough is enough.”
Likewise, ENV sees public involvement as crucial to any successful effort to eradicate pangolin crime in Vietnam. “With the support of the public, our hand is strengthened,” says Ms. Quyen. “We call upon the public to join us in this battle that may determine the future of a species. We have the ability to make a difference if we choose to. I choose not to sit on the sidelines and watch this species disappear when now, today, we have a chance to stop this. I am urging the public to make the same resolution, to become ‘pangolin warriors.’’
ENV highlighted action that can be taken by the public as follows:
Call for public action! Four things YOU can do to stop pangolin crime:
1. Report pangolin crimes immediately to local authorities or to the ENV Wildlife Crime Hotline 1800-1522. Each report to ENV will be pursued aggressively to conclusion with the aim of eliminating all violations that are reported.
See ENV’s new public service announcement (PSA) that has just begun airing across the country urging the public to report pangolin crimes at https://youtu.be/UW9RKV_uFTM
2. Take action in your community by making sure businesses near your home, work, or school are not violating the law. Check restaurants to ensure that they are not offering pangolins on their menus or serving pangolin wine. Check traditional medicine shops to ensure that pangolin scales are not being offered or sold. Report any violations observed to ENV.
3. Urge your friends, family, and colleagues to get involved. Spread the word widely through your social networks and other means: “Stop pangolin crime now by reporting violations to ENV and saying ‘NO’ to the consumption of pangolins."
4. Report traffickers. If you have information about illegal traders and traffickers engaged in the smuggling of pangolins, please inform to local authorities or contact the ENV Wildlife Crime Unit on our confidential toll-free hotline 1800-1522. ENV will assist in providing timely information to the appropriate law enforcement agency and track the case through to conclusion, keeping you informed of any results.
PANGOLINS AND THE LAW
Vietnam is home to two species of pangolin: the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and the Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica). Both species were recently listed as fully protected under Vietnamese law, making it a criminal offense to hunt, trade, or keep the creatures.
According to the law, pangolins may not be auctioned or sold by authorities, nor may farms be registered to keep or raise pangolins. The shy nature and wild ecology of pangolins make both species difficult to keep alive in captivity. There are several rescue centers that can receive confiscated pangolins including facilities at Cuc Phuong National Park, the Soc Son Rescue Center in Hanoi, and Cu Chi Rescue Center in Ho Chi Minh City. Pangolins that are confiscated must be transferred to a registered government rescue center, released, or destroyed.
Types of crimes to report to local authorities or ENV at 1-800-1522
- Pangolins soaked in wine for sale at restaurants and bars
- Pangolins listed on the menu of restaurants
- Pangolins or pangolin products advertised for sale on the internet
- Pangolin scales or products offered for sale at traditional medicine shops
- Traders or other criminals involved in smuggling or keeping pangolins
Some encouraging achievements in 2015 toward winning the war against pangolin crimes so far:
- ENV consumer crime enforcement campaigns have been carried out in six major cities. The number of violations at restaurants, hotels, bars, traditional medicine shops, and pet stores in the districts where the campaigns were initiated reduced by between 40% to 77% (an average of 66% overall).
- A pangolin crime enforcement campaign in 2015 targeting 170 restaurants nationally where pangolin crimes were reported has thus far resulted in a successful reduction rate of 83%
- A compliance campaign conducted in 2015 targeting 98 traditional medicine shops in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi has thus far resulted in 61% of the shops halting sales of pangolin scales
- Information reported through the Wildlife Crime Hotline in 2015 has resulted in a number of successful seizures of pangolins, arrests, and prosecutions.
- ENV’s policy and legislative team have successfully terminated the auctioning of pangolins following seizures in most provinces where the practice had been occurring.
- Our legislative team helped revise the national penal and criminal procedure codes to better protect pangolins and other wildlife in Vietnam. One of the many amendments will allow for the immediate release of pangolins into the wild following seizure, vitally important as pangolins do not survive well in captivity. The legislative team also successfully lobbied to have pangolin possession prosecuted under the penal code nationwide in accordance with the law, as opposed to being administratively sanctioned as had been done in the past.
- A campaign to eliminate advertisements for pangolins and pangolin scales on the internet resulted in an 86% reduction in crime through removal of links and agreements by website hosts and forums.