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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Vietnam a Stage for Rhino Horn Trafficking

I've been reading up on the trade in Rhino horns and was surprised to find Vietnam is right in the middle of it. In fact, Vietnam’s trade in Rhino horns has become the top threat to world Rhino populations. Rhinos worldwide are killed for their horns, which are ground into powder and used in "traditional medicine" in Vietnam and China, though the ingredient has no clinically-proven health benefits. A wildlife “farm” was recently discovered in northern Nghe An Province, with many African mammals of questionable origin (as well as numerous poached tiger carcasses), including a pair of African Rhinos. Meanwhile, Rhino poaching in far away South Africa has already doubled in 2010 compared to 2009, with many of the smuggled horns destined for Hanoi. On March 29, a Vietnamese man was arrested in South Africa for trying to smuggle 7 Rhino horns back to Vietnam. Several horns were taken from animals recently killed. On June 11, three Vietnamese citizens were then arrested in South Africa for attempting to smuggle 25 rhino horns back to Vietnam. Back in Vietnam, one of the last remaining Javan Rhinos in Cat Tien National Park (neighboring Lam Dong Province) was recently killed by poachers. Vietnam must take immediate action to put a stop to the domestic trade in Rhino horns—otherwise it runs the risk of earning the stigma of being a key cause of the extinction of remaining Rhino species worldwide. 

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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Verdict on Duch, Khmer Rouge Mastermind of S21 & My CNN Interview

Camrade Duch, senior Khmer Rouge mastermind behind S21, the infamous prison-death camp outside Phnom Penh, will receive his verdict in the UN Tribunal on Monday. I attended his trial several times last year and was interviewed by CNN here:

See all previous posts on this subject here:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Rantings on Binh Thuan's Wildlife Distribution Centers

Inspected what I could only describe as a wildlife distribution center the other day. Absolutely revolted, disgusted and frustrated. Tortoises, porcupines, a gazillion monitor lizards, civets, bamboo rats, etc. etc. All poached from the nearby national park. Yet the owner brags its all "legal." The government knows all about it and is fine with it due to a loophole in the law that allows people to get a permit for captive breeding and then do whatever the h@ll they want using that piece of paper as an umbrella--in other words stealing all their stock from the wild.

Please, if you visit a restaurant serving wild animals--including snakes, turtles, deer, etc.--no matter what they tell you about them being raised on a farm or showing you documentation--it is all a big fat lie. I don't care whether your idiot government-licensed tour guide tells you or what some gullible Lonely Planet guidebook writer wrote. Please don't eat there. Complain, scream, smack them over their scrawny little heads, but please do not patronize them or give them your money.

Expose coming on this subject, with lots of photos...