Protected wildlife under criminal law has been extended from rare, precious and endangered animals to all types of wildlife, he said on January 30 at a seminar Vietnam and law enforcement efforts to protect wildlife organized by CHANGE and WildAid (CHANGE, Centre of Hands On Action and Networking for Growth and Environment).

Under the amended Penal Code 2015, hunting, catching, killing, rearing, caging, transporting and trading wild animals is criminalized. This extends to possession of dead animals, body parts and products of rare, precious and endangered wild animals.

The maximum jail term for crimes related to wildlife management has increased to 15 years.

According to amended Penal Code 2015, violations in protecting rare, precious and endangered wildlife are considered “very serious offence” instead of “serious offence” as stated in the previous code, he said.

A forest protection officer examines smuggled pangolins

“Since 1994, when Vietnam joined the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the country has contributed to the protection of rare and precious wildlife. Vietnam has legalized the treaty in a full manner,” he said.

However, experts at the seminar said that difficulties remained in enforcing wildlife law.

Pham Quy Ty, former Deputy Minister of Justice, former Chief Justice of Hanoi’s People’s Court and former deputy head of National Assembly’s Judicial Committee, said that violations against wildlife were common, but only a few people had been punished, mostly through administrative procedures. The number of criminal penalties remained low due to difficulties in law enforcement.

“I know a province which uncovered 35 violations in a year, but 34 of them were administratively punished. Only one was accused of a criminal offence.”

Ty said that difficulties arose during examination of evidence. He said Vietnam did not have a rare, precious and endangered wildlife examination agency. Four agencies currently in charge of the examination are not judicial examination agencies.

“Carrying animals over a long distance, for example from Central Quang Binh and Quang Tri provinces to Hanoi, can kill animals. How to take care of and preserve the seized wild animals while waiting for examination is another problem,” he said.

Nguyen Khanh Quang, Deputy Head of the General Department of Customs’ Anti-smuggling Department, said that last year, Customs found 47 wildlife trafficking cases, prosecuted 15, including trafficking ivory, rhino horns, pangolin scales by road, sea and air.

In most of the cases, the seized exhibits were unclaimed. The owners were not identified as they hired other people to transport the animals, he said.

Experts agreed on the need for close co-ordination among law enforcement agencies and support of non-governmental organizations, scientists and the public in wildlife protection.

CHANGE and WildAid will support law enforcement in wildlife protection this year through communication campaigns, training workshops to improve capacity of law enforcement officers and students majoring in law enforcement, said Hoang Thi Minh Hong, CHANGE director.

Source: VNA