The never-ending adventures of a travel writer in Vietnam, Cambodia, New Zealand and throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wildlife Trafficking in Vietnam Photo Essay

The photos below are a preview of some upcoming stories coming to as well as other news outlets that I write for. All are wild animal trafficked illegally here in Binh Thuan Province. Most were poached from national parks.

These Elongated Tortoises (Indotestudo elongata) are locally known as Rua Nui Vang (Golden Mountain Turtles). They are very rare in the wild in this area, and one of 25 turtle and tortoise species found in Vietnam. These three here were part of a group of a dozen stolen from a local national park to be served in restaurants around Phan Thiet and Mui Ne. Sadly, my efforts were unsuccessful in saving them from the pot.

 There are two species of porcupine commonly found (and eaten) in Vietnam: Asiatic Brush-tailed Porcupine (Atherurus macrourus) which has a more primitive, rat-like appearance, and the Malayan Porcupine (Hystrix brachyura), pictured below. These too were stolen from a national park and destined for a dinner place in Phan Thiet or Mui Ne.  Porcupines are a great source for tape worms and other diseases that plague the wealthy and powerful.

 Monitor lizards (this family also includes the komodo dragon—which does not live in Vietnam) like the one below are popularly eaten in Vietnam or dumped into jars or rice wine for magical cures that do little more than delude the mentally feeble. This one, once again, was stolen from a national park and destined for a restaurant in Phan Thiet.

This cute little guy below, a bit larger than a guinea pig, is a bamboo rat. Bamboo rats are the natural hosts for the disease-causing moldPenicillium marneffei, which is endemic in all species in South-east Asia. In this area, Penicilliosis due to the mold is the third most common opportunistic infection in HIV-positive individuals. This little guy, along with dozens of others in his cement cell, ended up on a dinner table--very near you--in Phan Thiet or Mui Ne. And yes, he too was stolen from a national park.

The northern forests of Binh Thuan Province were robbed of these birds. You can read more on that here. We have a fairly regular though informal Sunday Wild Bird Market in Phan Thiet where the contraband birds are openly sold along the Ca Ty River, just down from the People’s Committee Building. They include the common, rare, endangered and unknown. 

Quick! Buy your very own endangered species before they are all gone! ...or not.

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