News / Asia

Vietnam's Elephants Face Threats from Near and Far

A tourist sits on the back of an elephant in Jul village, central highland province of Dak Lak, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2009.
A tourist sits on the back of an elephant in Jul village, central highland province of Dak Lak, Vietnam, Sept. 6, 2009.
Marianne Brown
— At the end of the war in 1975, as many as 2,000 wild elephants roamed the lowland forests of Vietnam.
 
Today, there are as few as 50. Poaching and habitat destruction have brought the animals to the brink of extinction, and conservationists say the only herd with a long-term chance of survival is located along the border separating Yok Don National Park and Cambodia.
 
Yok Don National Park, VietnamYok Don National Park, Vietnam
x
Yok Don National Park, Vietnam
Yok Don National Park, Vietnam
According to park director Tran Van Thanh, the already limited forests are shrinking as local communities cut trees in order to grow crops and expand housing.
 
“Another problem with the elephants now is about the agriculture cultivating of the local people," he said, explaining that the pachyderms enjoy eating sweet crops such as banana and dragon fruit, wreaking havoc on local farmers.
 
As their habitat shrinks, the elephants become more aggressive, he says, and traditional scare tactics, such as lighting fires, become less effective.
 
Because locals are not taught how to live in harmony with the elephants, Thanh says they often resort to violence. Many residents own guns, he adds, and illegal hunting is not uncommon.
 
“I think this is a big problem for the government," said Thanh, explaining that, after years of fighting illegal logging, staff training is outmoded. "They have to improve the capacity of the staff and [teach] the local authority how to help conservation."
 
Global ivory trade takes toll
 
But diminishing local resources isn't the only threat elephants are facing. Despite the 1989 global ban on illicit ivory, the global trade continues to take its toll on Vietnam's wild elephant population. In Dak Lak province, at least six wild elephants were killed by poachers this year alone — two of them found in August, their skulls mutilated and tusks sawn off.
 
Vietnamese authorities suspect the tusks may have been smuggled into China or perhaps to neighboring Thailand, where comparatively large quantities of ivory are available for sale.
 
But in China, despite stringent laws and customs enforcement, increasing consumer demand for ivory has been blamed for the slaughter of elephants worldwide.
 
“As consumers in China are acquiring more wealth, and increasingly spending that wealth, the demand for ivory is basically increasing," said Julian Blanc of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
 
"Ivory is obviously something which is highly valued by the Chinese people and that is what is driving the trend," he added. "But even if there wasn’t any demand from China, there would always be some background level of
poaching."
 
While a single kilogram of ivory can bring thousands of dollars on China's black market in endangered species, demand for the material as a symbol of wealth persists in Vietnam.
 
“[We] received reports of a number of houses, one in particular in Hanoi, where very large tusks have been displayed on the walls," said Richard Thomas of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network. "They haven’t been concealed from public view — people can see them when the curtains are open and the lights are on.”
 
While Vietnam's consumer demand for ivory doesn't appear to be increasing, government programs designed to protect the wild elephant have not been implemented.
 
In 2006, officials in Hanoi promised an urgent action plan that included the proposed construction of electric fences to safeguard the country's wild elephants. Stalled by insufficient funding, however, the program, which was slated to run until 2020, may kick in too late to save Vietnam’s elephants.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid