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Illegal hunting is big business, driven by poverty

Poverty, demand drives illegal hunting in Vietnam

Illegal hunting is big business, driven by poverty
Hunters butcher a wild pig reporter, A Luoi

August 14, 2012

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“I have no choice,” Ho says. Ho, who goes by a single name, knows hunting wildlife is illegal, but still he hunts deer, boar, cattle, snakes and weasels in the forest. In 2010 he was detained for a week and fined three million dong (US$144) after a warden caught him hunting deer, but that is a risk Ho is willing to take. Each warden has to cover more than 1,000 hectares of forest, so preventing illegal hunting is a challenge, says Do Quang Tung, deputy director of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora Management Authority of Vietnam. The World Wildlife Fund last month ranked Vietnam as the worst country for wildlife crime in its first survey of how well 23 countries in Asia and Africa protect rhinos, tigers and elephants. The Switzerland-based group focused its report on countries where the threatened animals live in the wild or are traded or consumed. Only 50 tigers and 100 elephants remain in Vietnam, Tung says. On July 31, Ho Chi Minh City-based customs officials found 150 elephant tusks inside a tractor trailer. The illegal haul weighed 2.4 tons and was worth approximately US$4.9 million. Across Southeast Asia, the illegal wildlife trade is worth an estimated US$8 billion to US$10 billion per year, and it starts with people like Ho. The Pa Co ethnic man from the mountainous A Luoi district in Thua Thien-Hue province used to collect firewood for a living, but he started to hunt in 2010 after he saw a local restaurant owner buy a 50kg pig for 2.5 million dong. In contrast, 60kg of firewood is only worth 400,000 dong and he could not support his family, he says. Ho is one of six men in his village who earn a living by hunting in the thick forest bordering Laos, also knows local wildlife is being depleted. “In the past we saw herds of pigs in the forests,” he says. “Now we rarely see them.” A butcher in nearby Nam Dong district earns 8 million to 10 million dong a month, buying carcasses from local hunters and selling 15 to 100kg of animal products a day to traders and restaurants in Hue city. Even the bones are valuable. Herbal medicine shops buy tiger and monkey bones for 9 million to10 million dong/kg. Monkey bones bring 600,000 to 800,000 dong/kg. There are seven other illegal slaughterhouses like his in the two districts. “We cannot meet the demand for wildlife products,” he says.
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