Education for Nature - Vietnam
Source: Source: Science and Development
April 6, 2005

Measures to Protect Turtles ? A Muddled Way

In the world, turtles and tortoises are not only the rare and precious animals that should be protected but also are symbols of culture and religion for many nations such as Vietnam. Like in other countries, the number of Vietnam?s remaining turtles is decreasing rapidly. Some species have few individuals left and are in danger of extinction.

On the map showing the distribution of Vietnam?s turtles, there are only small populations left. The reasons for this is conversion of natural lands into agricultural areas, and negative impacts resulting from the environment pollution of turtle habitat. Nevertheless, the main reason is the rampant wildlife hunting and trade. Sometimes, the wildlife trade is public at some markets throughout the country. Even in Hanoi, the cultural center of the country, it is easy to buy turtles for keeping as ornaments or setting free on the first day or the 15th day of the lunar months. It is known that some turtles are sold, bought, released and caught many time from Guom Lake to Dong Xuan Market, and from Dong Xuan Market to Guom Lake.

Although the wildlife trade is prohibited by law and the mass media is carrying out advocacy activities about the protection of turtles and tortoises, there is an increasing number of wildlife restaurants. At a workshop on the conservation of turtles held on March the 4th, Mr. Douglas Hendrie, Asian conservation coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has been working for nearly 10 years in Vietnam and involved in activities to protect turtles and tortoises, showed us his photos of wildlife restaurants. He expressed his astonishment when seeing many cars with blue registration plates parked at these restaurants.

At present, the settlement of the illegal wildlife shipments and trade in our country is ineffective. It seems that there have been no cases which have been settled strictly enough in order to deter other violators. The settlement of confiscated animals is the same. Whenever a functional agency confiscates an illegal shipment of wildlife, it settles the case by one of two ways: releasing the animals into the wild or transferring the animals to the Forest Protection Departments. These methods have limitations because the animals which are released do not adapt to unfamiliar living environments and die or are eaten by other species. In order to overcome the limitations, there have been world-wide instructions to transfer the confiscated animals to zoos or wildlife rescue centers. Nevertheless, several zoos in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City complain that they rarely receive wild animals, even from the most sensational cases.

The mass media plays an important role in advocacy activities and enhancing people?s awareness about the protection of turtles and tortoises. Ironically, in order to popularize the country?s tourism sector there have been some articles about eating and drinking including dishes cooked from turtles. Such publicity increases curiosity to taste some of these specialty dishes.

In short, in order to protect freshwater turtles and tortoise species, apart from advocacy activities to raise people?s awareness of communities, cases involving illegal trade should be settled with strict punishment given to those involved. In addition, it is necessary for the government to include specific endangered turtle and tortoise species in the Red Data Book and legislation.


Please note: Translated by Education for Nature ? Vietnam. This translation is unofficial in nature. The Vietnamese language version of this story can be obtained by contacting ENV