Vietnam has officially banned wildlife markets and imports due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The country’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, signed a new directive that closes illegal wildlife markets. It also bans wildlife imports with certain exemptions.
In March, Phuc requested that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development draft the directive. The request followed pressure from 14 conservationist nonprofits.
In February, the coalition submitted an open letter to the prime minister calling for the ban. Organizations included Humane Society International (HSI), the World Wildlife Fund, Save Vietnam Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Pan Nature.
“Vietnam’s directive clearly shows the government’s commitment to eradicating illegal wildlife trade and consumption,” Phuong Tham, HSI Vietnam’s director, said in a press release.
The directive also discourages citizens from “illegally hunting, catching, buying, selling, transporting, slaughtering, consuming, storing, and advertising wildlife.”
Experts believe the coronavirus originated in a market in Wuhan, China. They have also linked a number of other infectious disease outbreaks to the illegal wildlife trade. These include SARS and the Ebola virus.
According to HSI, an estimated 75 percent of all emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic.
Banning the Wildlife Trade
Wildlife markets aren’t just a breeding ground for zoonotic diseases like the coronavirus. Tham said the existence of wildlife markets also puts many species at risk of extinction.
“Many Vietnamese people [are] consuming endangered species such as cobra, turtle, and pangolin, as well as all manner of monkeys, birds, and other unprotected species,” Tham explained. “Vietnam’s rapacious appetite for wildlife is endangering not just these species’ survival. [As] we have seen with the coronavirus outbreak, it is endangering people’s lives too. So this ban can’t come soon enough.”
Vietnam isn’t the only country taking action against the illegal wildlife trade.
In February, China banned the sale and consumption of wild animal meat after it was linked to the spread of the outbreak. Zhang Tiewei, a spokesman for the Legislative Affairs Commission, said the ban is a “critical moment for the epidemic prevention and control.”
HSI hopes more countries will follow suit in banning the consumption and exploitation of wildlife. Teresa Telecky, HSI’s vice president of wildlife, believes Vietnam’s directive will help minimize the risk of future outbreaks.
“Wildlife markets worldwide are a petri dish for the next global pandemic. So this directive opens a way for Vietnam to end illegal wildlife trade. [It] also help global efforts to prevent the next global pandemic from happening,” she said.
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