Vietnam: Wildlife Trafficking Matriarch Evades Justice

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A local purveyor of illegal wildlife, Tu Loan, has again escaped criminal prosecution in Vietnam’s Lam Dong province.

Although she could have faced seven years in jail or $26,000 in fines, Tu Loan got away with a paltry fine of just $7,200 — despite the fact that more than 300 kg (661 pounds) of illegal wildlife meat, along with live animals, were seized from her restaurant in a 2010 raid.

Charges were dropped, due to a “lack of evidence”.

According to Thanh Nien Daily, Tu Loan told a reporter (who posed as a potential restaurant client) last week that she could provide “wild-caught civet, porcupine, wild pig and deer” — and even bear bile.

In 2011, she offered rhino horn to an undercover reporter — US $5,000 for one hundred grams — saying she would have a friend get the rhino horn.

I used to trade in it, but it has become scarce in the past three years.

Some conservationists believe that Tu Loan, and others involved with wildlife trafficking in Vietnam, enjoys a “cozy relationship” with local officials.

Nguyen Dinh Xuan, a former lawmaker and the director of a national park in the southern province of Tay Ninh, told Thanh Nien that “wildlife restaurants are just packed with state officials and rich people”.

He says that Vietnam has wildlife protection laws, but they lack enforcement.

Vietnam doesn’t need more directives aimed at protecting wildlife. We just need to walk the talk.

Scott Roberton of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) would like Tu Loan’s case to be re-opened. He said via Thanh Nien that Lam Dong authorities should “carry out further investigations and make an example of her network and expose the protection she appears to have in the government agencies”.

Tu Loan also owns a zoo, which she allegedly uses to launder rare and protected species for her restaurant.

Image: Brian Dell via Wikimedia Commons

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Rhishja Cota-Larson

I am the founder of Annamiticus, an educational nonprofit organization which is working to stop the economic exploitation of endangered species. I have journeyed to the streets of Hanoi to research the illegal wildlife trade, and to the rainforests of Sumatra and Java to document the world’s rarest rhinos. I am a Co-Chair of the SSN Pangolin Working Group. At CITES meetings, I work with colleagues from around the world to lobby in favor of protecting endangered species. I am a Producer / Wildlife Trade Consultant for the upcoming documentary The Price, the host of Behind the Schemes and author of the book Murder, Myths & Medicine. When I'm not blogging or podcasting about illegal wildlife trade, I enjoy desert gardening, herping, reading, designing, and walking with my dogs.