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Vietnam’s Environmental Police dig their claws into illegal big cat trade

Hanoi, Vietnam—Vietnam’s Environmental Police have confiscated two frozen tigers and a frozen leopard in the central province of Nghe An.

The animals, reportedly along with 11 lbs of suspected tiger bones, were confiscated from the home of a 53-year old man in Dien Chau district early last week. The suspect was placed under arrest.

The confiscation resulted from a co-ordinated effort between enforcement authorities, including the recently established Environmental Police.

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, commended the authorities for their diligence in enforcing Vietnam’s wildlife laws. TRAFFIC is a joint programme of WWF and the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The Environmental Police have demonstrated once again their dedication to halting the illegal trade in protected species such as tigers,” said Thomas Osborn, Coordinator of TRAFFIC’s Greater Mekong Program. “If we hope to save the country’s remaining tigers and other threatened species, it will take ever increasing vigilance from authorities and a strong commitment by the government to support and promote existing wildlife laws.”

Despite their protection under Vietnamese and international law, tigers and leopards continue to be illegally hunted and traded across Vietnam and Southeast Asia for their meat, as souvenirs, and for their bones, used in traditional medicine and to make tiger bone wine. As few as 30 wild tigers are estimated to survive in Vietnam.  

In March this year, authorities at the border town of Lao Bao seized a body of a tiger and a black leopard being transported across from Laos into Vietnam. In October 2009, Vietnam Environmental Police seized two frozen tiger carcasses weighing nearly 300 lbs and arrested five suspects in Hanoi.

“This shows us that investing in enforcement to target wildlife crime networks is paying off,” said Crawford Allan of TRAFFIC North America. “On a regional level ASEAN-WEN, the Southeast Asian wildlife enforcement network funded by USAID, highlights the importance of high level commitment combined with training to get real results.”

A Global Commitment

Tigers have become a global icon for species threatened with extinction. With as few as 3,200 wild tigers left, their future is at a tipping point even as the world celebrates the Chinese Year of the Tiger.

Our goal is to deliver Tx2—the ambitious target of doubling the number of wild tigers by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

The first-ever international summit on tiger conservation at St. Petersburg this September will be of vital importance to ensure a future for wild tigers. Leaders from all 13 tiger range will endorse a plan of action that includes sustainable financing mechanisms, strong oversight, and absolute commitment to stamp out illegal trade and stop the poaching crisis.

It will mark a culmination of the political process led by tiger range countries and the beginning of an ambitious agenda for the recovery of wild tiger populations throughout Asia.

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