On the 4th November 2018, over 400kg of turtle and snakes were confiscated by the authorities in Kon Tum province, central Vietnam.
On the 5th November, a rescue team from the Asian Turtle Program (ATP) of Indo Myanmar Conservation (IMC) and the Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC) of Cuc Phuong National Park arrived in Kon Tum Province having been informed the animals could be rescued. The team immediately started providing care to the 148 turtles of 11 different species. Of those, 9 species were classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable by IUCN Red List 2018, including 26 big-headed turtles (Platysternon megacephalum), which are nationally protected under Decree 32/2006/ND-CP and listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
As it turned out the traders apparently had a permit that claimed approximately half of the confiscated animals were legal captive-bred, including most of the big-headed turtles. Those who know the species would know this is very doubtful, they are difficult to keep and are rarely bred. The documentation permitting the trade in these animals was issued by Tam Nong district Forest Protection Department (Dong Thap province, southern Vietnam) without permission from the CITES management authority for Vietnam. The remaining 75 turtles (5 species), weighing 50.2kg, were illegally traded.
Following almost five days waiting and assisting the authorities and despite the best efforts of the IMC/ATP, TCC and Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) in providing law-related technical support, the Kon Tum authorities could not come to a decision concerning the transfer of the turtles. Therefore, to our great dismay, none of the turtles have been transferred to the TCC yet but are currently being kept at Chu Mom Ray National Park rescue centre in the province while we wait for a final decision.
This seemingly straightforward incident shows that law enforcement of wildlife crime in Vietnam still needs significant improvement.
Press release by: Hoang Van Ha – ATP/IMC