The Operation Game Change (OGC) programme was launched in Hanoi on March 3, calling for joint efforts from the entire community to counteract wildlife crime.

The event was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the US, African and UK embassies, as well as Vietnamese and foreign scientists.

Lisa Wishman, Press Officer at the US Embassy said cooperation between the US and Vietnam in implementing the OGC is part of activities to celebrate the 20th anniversary of normalising bilateral relations between the two nations.

It also aims to form an alliance to end wild animal trafficking, especially rhino horns, while raising public awareness of wildlife protection and reducing demand for wildlife products, she said.

Funded by the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development, the OGC aims to reduce the trafficking and consumption of endangered animals in Asia, including Vietnam .

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Bui Cach Tuyen stated that the Law on Biodiversity Protection, which was adopted in 2008, is a clear guideline for the role of the Vietnamese Government in preserving flora and fauna, especially those facing extinction.

As part of efforts to realise the national strategy on conserving biodiversity until 2030, Vietnam is paying greater attention to combating wildlife trafficking, he said.

Currently, increasing demand for wildlife products is a main contributing factor to wildlife trafficking. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, more than 20,000 elephants were killed in Africa between 2012 and 2013 for their ivory.

Data from the World Wildlife Fund reveal the trading value of wildlife in the black market could be as high as 19 billion USD each year.

Authorities and scientists at the event stressed the importance of completing legal frameworks and enhancing law enforcement capacity in combating wildlife trafficking, as well as communications and education on wildlife protection and improving the livelihoods in communities surrounding wildlife areas.

The OGC will be implemented across the nation with the engagement of various agencies and sectors, including private enterprises. A film-making contest is also scheduled to be launched later this year.-VNA