Illustrative photo (Photo: antd.vn)

Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam will put more focus on engaging the local community in combating the illegal wildlife trade.

“Because the role of the local community, who live close to the forest and have the chance to see wildlife every single day, in the fight against wildlife trafficking is very important,” Nguyen Ba Ngai, deputy director of the Vietnam Administration for Forestry under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said at a regional workshop held in Hanoi on November 15. 

“Over the past few years, we have concentrated solely on strengthening law enforcement to battle wildlife trafficking rather than disseminating information to raise public awareness of saying no to wildlife products and the illegal wildlife trade,” he said.

Agreeing with Ngai, Rossie Cooney, chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group, said in the long term, the future of wildlife depends on communities who live close to it.

Unless these communities are empowered and motivated – by rights and benefits – to protect and conserve wildlife, poaching in support of the illegal wildlife trade is going to continue driving these populations downwards, she said.

Jake Brunner, Program Coordinator at IUCN Vietnam, said in African countries, the local community is given the exclusive rights to the wildlife within traditional forest areas and so they have exclusive rights to hunt and consume wildlife.

A man there is offered a direct financial benefit to ensure outsiders get out and so the level of hunting is kept at a sustainable level, he said.

If Vietnam wants to apply these methods, maybe it needs fundamental changes in law and outlook, he said.

Another important intervention is to make sure the community is willing to cooperate with the police, and ensure that if wildlife hunters and traders are caught, they are convicted, he said.

A villager who informs the police about hunters and traders must be protected, he said.

Thomas Neill Edward Gray, Director of the Science Wildlife Alliance, said the most important thing is that the local community is motivated to participate in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

If you can demonstrate the benefits to the local community, for example, benefits from eco-tourism, it will be much easier for them to support law enforcement.

“A combination like this has been quite successful in Cambodia, and I think it could be applied to some areas in Vietnam,” he said.

The two-day regional workshop, with a focus on the Lower Mekong Region’s countries, was jointly coordinated by IUCN and organisations including the International Institute of Environment and Development and TRAFFIC – the wildlife trade monitoring network. 

It offered an opportunity for conservationists to share experiences and case studies that explore ways of supporting, motivating and engaging people who live close to wildlife in its protection and conservation.-VNA