Born Free has given a cautious welcome to reports that Vietnam has banned the import of wildlife and wildlife products, as well as wildlife markets, to reduce the threat of new pandemics.
Dr Mark Jones, Born Free's Head of Policy, said: “The world’s wildlife is in serious decline, in no small part because of the exponentially increasing legal and illegal commercial trade in wild animals and animal parts to supply expanding international markets. Vietnam has long been identified as a major destination for traded wildlife, including high-profile trafficked products such as rhinoceros horn and pangolin scales, as well as being a transit country for animals and products destined for China and elsewhere in the region.
"This announcement is therefore very welcome indeed. However, the devil will be in the detail. If the reported ban extends to both the importation and domestic consumption of wildlife, and if it is properly implemented, it could have a profound impact on the trade in and trafficking of wildlife in the region, with knock-on benefits for wildlife conservation, animal welfare, and human health. We therefore welcome the announcement, while urging the Vietnamese authorities to extend the ban to include the importation and domestic trade in wild animals for all purposes, including as pets or for medicinal use, and to ensure that sufficient resources are made available to enable robust enforcement and appropriate public education. We also urge the international community to do all it can to assist Vietnam in the implementation of these measures, and to encourage other countries in which commercial wildlife markets exist to take similar steps.”
Dr Nikki Tagg, Born Free's Conservation Programmes Manager, added: "If the details of the ban are verified, this move would be an exciting step in the fight to seriously improve our relationship with nature. The wildlife trade and wildlife markets play a key role in the emergence of zoonotic diseases, which originate in some wild animals, such as bats, primates and birds, and can spill over to people, often via other species, in settings where people come into close contact with animals. The crowded, stressed conditions of wildlife markets facilitates this disease transmission. The resulting impacts on people across the world are frighteningly clear in the midst of the current covid-19 crisis. This move by Vietnam is therefore highly welcomed.
"However, we must not stop there. We must consider and improve all the different ways in which we treat and interact with nature, including here in the West: we need to embrace nature’s role in our lives and keep spaces aside for nature, we need to reverse the current trend of rapidly decreasing wild spaces and diminishing biodiversity across the world, and to do so we need to rethink the way we live, what we eat, how we get our energy, how we travel. This is an exciting step, but it is only one step. Let’s keep going."