Established in New York, the USA since 1895, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. WCS has made a positive contribution to wildlife conservation all over the world in general and in Việt Nam in particular. Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine had an interview with Ms. Trần Thị Thanh Hương - Grant Manager of WCS Vietnam to learn more about their work in the country.
VEM: Could you introduce about WCS and the mission of your organization?
Ms. Trần Thị Thanh Hương: WCS has nearly 60 country offices worldwide. We started our work in Việt Nam in 2006 and have been working with Government, national and international civil society organizations, media and community to strengthen the commitment of the Government of Việt Nam, promote multinational and multi-discipline collaboration among law enforcement agencies and relevant Governments in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. One of our priorities is to support Law enforcement agencies to arrest, convict and sentence wildlife criminals along the trade chains.
VEM: Could you share some key activities WCS have implemented to fight against illegal wildlife trade?
Ms. Trần Thị Thanh Hương: We have learned from our experience that cooperation between government, civil society organization and local communities play a vital role in improving the legal framework and strengthening Law enforcement in reality. WCS Vietnam has been working the National Assembly, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to review and provide recommendations to improve more than 10 legislations related to wildlife conservation. As a result, the legal framework of Việt Nam for wildlife management and protection has been revamped with the introduction of Resolution No. 05/2018/ NQ-HDTP on guiding principles to apply Article 234 and Article 244 in the Penal Code 2015 (revised in 2017), Decree No. 06/2019/ND-CP on the management of endangered, precious and rare wild fauna and flora, the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species of Wild Fauna and Flora and Decree No. 35/2019/ND-CP on Administrative Penalties in Respect of Forest Control, Forest Development, Forest Protection and Forest Product Management.
WCS Việt Nam has also cooperated with the Department of Environmental Police, Ministry of Public Security; CITES Management Authority; Forest Protection Department, MARD; Supreme People's Procuracy and Supreme People's Court to organize information-sharing workshops and trainings for relevant agencies of Việt Nam and our partners in other Asian and African countries such as China, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia and Mozambique, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania. From 2010 to 2019, WCS coordinated 32 training for 1.837 trainees.
In addition, WCS has helped enhance the international cooperation through the organization of working visits and facilitation of the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Governments of Việt Nam and other countries that are related to illegal wildlife trade chain. Notably, on December 3rd, 2018, a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) on criminal matters was officially signed by Supreme People’s Procuracy (SPP) of Việt Nam and Minister of Justice, Constitutional and Religious Affairs of Mozambique in Maputo, Mozambique, significantly contributing to strengthening bilateral cooperation to combat transnational crimes, including wildlife trafficking crimes, between the two countries. We take this signing of such an important document as a remark milestone for our on-going efforts to strengthen international collaboration as a strategic approach to fight illegal wildlife trade.
Since 2010, WCS Vietnam has joined efforts to detect viruses that may lead to pandemics, especially those that can be transmitted between animals and humans. In our wildlife health project, we have implemented activities in five provinces and cities, including Hà Nội, Đồng Nai, Đồng Tháp, Bắc Giang and Quảng Ninh. In the 2014 - 2019 period, a total of 15.767 samples from 4.712 individuals were collected. We carry out quantitative and qualitative research via 40 ethnographic interviews, and 4 focus group discussions to identify risk factors for viral transmission and obtain descriptive accounts of human behaviours and perceptions to support the development of effective public health interventions.
In 2015, WCS Vietnam started its participation in the conservation of the Rafetus swinhoei the historic legend of Hanoi and has now become a critically endangered species with only three known individuals worldwide. To find more individuals of Hoàn Kiếm Turtle in the wild, WCS has conducted multiple surveys in many natural lakes of Việt Nam and recently developed a real-time and on-site environmental DNA test kit of Rafetus swinhoei, bringing new hope for finding and restoring the population of this species. WCS is currently working with Hà Nội Department of Fisheries and the Indo-Myanmar Conservation to implement the Hoàn Kiếm Turtle Conservation Plan of Hanoi People's Committee for the period of 2018 -2020, with a vision to 2030.
VEM: In July 2019, WCS has officially launched the project “Partners against wildlife crime” funded by the European Union, could you introduce about project objectives and activities?
Ms. Trần Thị Thanh Hương: The project “Partners against wildlife crime” funded by the European Union will be implemented in seven countries (Cambodia, China, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Việt Nam), for four years (2019-2022). The project objectives are to enhance protection in key source sites for tigers, Asian elephants, freshwater turtles, and rosewood in Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand; increase the effectiveness of law enforcement and justice sector to combat wildlife trafficking; increase trans-boundary coordination to combat wildlife trafficking; reduce preference for illegally sourced products from our target species.
In Việt Nam, WCS will cooperate with PanNature, a local NGO, to implement a number of activities to increase quality and quantity of intelligence on wildlife trafficking; building capacity of local and regional journalists and NGOs in Việt Nam in gathering information on the trafficking of our target species. These can be done through training and technical workshops, development of environmental journalism network, and the establishment of cross-border journalist network. Besides, WCS will also build a partnership with government agencies to provide on-the-job, real-time technical and strategic support in law enforcement and judicial process. In addition, we will organise high-level political dialogues between Việt Nam and Laos to discuss policy cooperation and coordination, as well as potential bilateral agreements/MOUs to show commitment at Government level that will ultimately direct the actual implementation of cooperation on the ground.
VEM: What are the expected results of the project and could you describe some activities project that will take place in the near future?
Ms. Trần Thị Thanh Hương: Through this project, we expect to gather useful information and share it with relevant government agencies of Việt Nam and other related countries in a timely manner so that they can verify and handle cases effectively; we will also implement capacity building and cooperation strengthening between Việt Nam and Laos. WCS and PanNature will work closely with environmental journalist network in Việt Nam and the region to gather information and deliver consistent messages to the target audiences. In the other six countries, WCS will implement a series of field conservation activities on tigers, Asian elephants, freshwater turtles, and rosewood in their habitat simultaneously. We will also support cooperation among all related Government agencies, promote communication campaign to reduce wildlife product demand.
Nguyễn Hằng (Implemented)
(Source: Vietnam Environment Administration Magazine, English Edition III - 2019)