Vietnam, according to the WWF, ranks among the worst countries in Asia when it comes to protecting endangered species. The World Wildlife Federation, which is based out of Switzerland, has found that the country is a hot-spot destination for those looking to sell rhino horns trafficked from South Africa. 448 rhinos were killed in 2011 alone, with an additional 262 already murdered this year. Several Vietnamese have been arrested for their crimes, including a handful of diplomats. Sadly, it doesn’t appear this trend will end anytime soon.
“It is time for Vietnam to face the fact that its illegal consumption of rhino horn is driving the widespread poaching of endangered rhinos in Africa, and that it must crack down on the illegal rhino horn trade. Vietnam should review its penalties and immediately curtail retail markets, including Internet advertising for horn,” explained Elisabeth McLellan, Global Species Programm manager at WWF.
The WWF released a report detailing 23 countries thought to be heavily involved in the illegal trade of endangered animals. According to the Brookings Institute, which is based out of Washington D.C., such practices are thought to bring in between $8 billion and $10 billion per year throughout Southeast Asia. With that much money tied into the black market, getting countries to crack down on such practices will be harder than most realize.
Of course, Vietnam isn’t the only country in the region guilty of not cracking down on people who make a living from butchering endangered animals. China came in at a close second, with Thailand trailing not too far behind.
“In Thailand, illegal African ivory is being openly sold in up-scale boutiques that cater to unsuspecting tourists. Governments will be taking up this troubling issue this week,” McLellan said. “So far Thailand has not responded adequately to concerns and, with the amount of ivory of uncertain origin in circulation, the only credible option at this stage is a ban on ivory trade.”
There is a bit of a silver lining to this depressing story. Both India and Nepal received positive marks from the WWF, the latter of which celebrated an entire year without a reported case of rhino poaching. The country attributes this accomplishment to a new wave of anti-poaching laws.