Vietnam 'supermarket' for illegal wildlife trade, hearing told

2016-11-14 15:57
Rhino. (Supplied)

Rhino. (Supplied)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

The Hague - A Vietnamese village has become "a supermarket for illegal wildlife trafficking" raking in millions of dollars, a special hearing was told on Monday.

The two-day public hearing in The Hague is laying out the findings of a year-long undercover investigation by the new Wildlife Justice Commission.

The probe has provided "clear and irrefutable evidence of an industrial-scale crime hub in the village of Nhi Khe in Vietnam", said the commission's executive director Olivia Swaak-Goldman.

"Urgent, decisive action" was needed, she told about 200 people gathered at The Hague's imposing Peace Palace.

The commission, set up in 2015, has no power to bring charges, but hopes the hearing will push Vietnam and other countries to crack down on the global $20bn trade in wildlife poaching.

Stockpile destroyed

READ: Mahlobo mulls legal action over 'rhino poaching' documentary

Five experts, including international judges, will set out recommendations on Tuesday for further action.

But it seems Hanoi has already been spurred into action ahead of a major international conference on wildlife trafficking it is hosting later this week.

On Saturday, Vietnamese authorities destroyed a stockpile of two tons of ivory and 70kg of rhino horn, which had been uncovered by the commission.

Former US assistant New York attorney Marcus Asner, an advisor on wildlife trafficking to US President Barack Obama, said it was "a good step" but more was needed.

Nhi Khe had become "a supermarket for illegal wildlife" with "massive quantities of rhino horn for sale and huge quantities of elephant products" openly on display, he said.

The commission says it has identified 51 people involved in the illegal trade in Nhi Khe, operating out of 16 shops dotted around the small village. The names have been given to Hanoi.

But "justice has not been activated in this case by the authorities in Vietnam, despite months of discussions and clear and detailed evidence", said Swaak-Goldman.


During five return visits in 2015 and 2016, the undercover operation found $53.1m worth of parts from rhino, elephants and tigers in Nhi Khe, just 17km south of Hanoi.

There were parts from up to 907 elephants, 579 rhino and 225 tigers. But there were also other dead animals for sale, including pangolin, bear, hawksbill turtles and helmeted hornbills.

They were smuggled to the Southeast Asian country mostly from Africa and overwhelmingly destined for customers in China.

After a sale is agreed, business is then conducted on WeChat, the Chinese version of the mobile phone messaging service WhatsApp, with the buyers providing account details of Chinese banks for payment.

"What is most lacking is enforcement, and this is based on the absence of political will," said international judge Motoo Noguchi. "The culture of impunity prevails."

A series of undercover videos showed shopkeepers weighing piles of ivory and rhino horn. There were also hundreds of bangles, necklaces and figurines.

One elephant tusk was estimated at $29 000 - a fortune in the country where the average monthly salary is $210.

One woman trafficked an estimated $2.2m in products over 12 months from her mansion, with a brand new Mercedes outside, the commission's senior legal investigator Pauline Verheij told the hearing.

Despite crackdowns elsewhere, an interpreter told the team it was safer to shop in Nhi Khe as people there "had their connections" ensuring police turned a blind eye.

Read more on:    animals  |  rhino poaching  |  poaching

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.