(VIETNAM / WILDAID) High level representatives from Vietnamese government agencies and foreign consulates joined WildAid and CHANGE in Ho Chi Minh City to support the global effort to save elephants from poaching and the illegal wildlife trade. WildAid ambassadors Pham Huong, Le Hang, and Trac Thuy Mieu also participated in the campaign launch along with partner organizations and others.
Revered in Vietnam's culture, elephants are protected by the government, and trade in ivory is prohibited. However, for the past few years, large shipments of ivory have been illegally trafficked though Vietnam. The Ivory Free Vietnam campaign aims to highlight the ivory poaching crisis decimating elephant populations in Africa, encourage people not to buy ivory, and help the government further strengthen its enforcement of illegal ivory shipments passing through to other markets.
Last week customs authorities at a Ho Chi Minh City port intercepted 1.5 tons ivory concealed in a shipping container. Barrels in the container were filled with dozens of raw tusks and hundreds of worked ivory bracelets. In the last quarter of 2016, Ho Chi Minh City customs officials said they seized about six tons of ivory.
"In addition to the efforts to save domestic wild elephants, the government of Vietnam has made commitment to the international community to fight the illegal ivory trade and trafficking. For the first time, the revised penal code which has just been approved by the National Assembly has specific regulations on ivory related crimes. In order to effectively stop the global wildlife poaching and cross-country trade, we welcome the collaboration and contribution of international and local NGOs like WildAid and CHANGE," said Do Quang Tung, Deputy Chief of Ministry Office of Vietnam's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
A recent survey conducted by CHANGE and WildAid in Vietnam shows that 95% of respondents believe that elephants are at risk of extinction. At the same time, 59% know that Vietnam is one of the key transit countries for ivory, and 93% support the government in banning all ivory trade in Vietnam. The majority believe that the government should issue higher penalties for smugglers (63%), and stricter enforcement at customs (56%).
"We are hoping to help Vietnam become a leader in saving elephants by ending the ivory trade here, including transit shipments to other countries," said John Baker, WildAid Managing Director. "The survey shows that the Vietnamese people are not buying large volumes of ivory, and it seems that the Vietnamese people respect elephants and do not want to become part of the problem," Baker said.
"We congratulate Vietnam customs for its vigilance and success in interdicting illegal ivory shipments. We would like to see an end to all ivory coming into Vietnam. We look forward to working with our partners including government agencies to make this happen quickly."
WildAid released two new video public service announcements at the campaign launch event: "Orphans" featuring Pham Huong and Le Hang, and "Party" featuring journalist-MC Trac Thuy Mieu. The videos will be shown on TV, on out-of-home media, and on online and social media.
A trailer for an upcoming documentary film on the elephant crisis and ivory trade featuring Pham Huong and Le Hang was also shown. This film will be broadcast later in the year, and will be screened in movie theatres across the country.