Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: The Combatting Wildlife Trafficking Panel

Wednesday, October 2, 2019
Location, City

Xin chào các quý vị! And thank you all for coming this afternoon.

Around the world, some of our planet’s most amazing animals are being hunted to extinction. Here in Vietnam, for example, the last wild rhino was killed in 2010, and there are probably less than 10 remaining wild tigers in the country – making them functionally extinct as well.

I could share more sad statistics, but I think it’s important to recognize this is not just another sad story – there are reasons for optimism.

First, passionate individuals and organizations are working tirelessly on this issue – many of them are here in the room! In fact, later you’ll have the opportunity to hear more from a few of these organizations about the scope of the challenge and what is being done here in Vietnam to end wildlife trafficking.

Second, Vietnam’s laws are tough on criminals! Did you know that under the revised penal code, wildlife traffickers can now be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison and be fined up to 15 billion VND (almost $650,000 USD)?

These aren’t just good laws in principle – they are being used! More and more wildlife smugglers are being arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced for breaking the law.

However, as exciting as this progress is, more must be done. The facts are: Vietnam is now the leading destination for rhino horn and tiger parts. Vietnam is a top destination for elephant ivory and pangolin scales. Additionally, Vietnam is a major transit country –tons of illegal wildlife products are smuggled into the country each year on their way to illegal markets in China.

In light of these significant challenges, international cooperation is essential. That is why the United States and Vietnam are working more closely together, taking steps to help save our planet’s wildlife for future generations.

In April of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security to strengthen bilateral investigative cooperation regarding illegal wildlife trafficking.

This cooperation isn’t limited to signing documents. Our USAID Saving Species program, (which you’ll hear about in just a few minutes), as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection are increasingly sharing information, intelligence, best practices, and equipment with their Vietnamese counterparts.

Together we are building a future in which Vietnam’s wildlife is protected, and where smugglers are afraid to operate.

I like to imagine that future – it’s a future in which my grandchildren and yours can still enjoy a world with wild places and wild animals. A world in which tigers still stalk through the woods – not just as pictures in a book, or images on a screen, but in real life.

I think that is a rich and beautiful future – but it isn’t guaranteed. In fact, at the current rates of poaching, many of our world’s most magnificent wild animals will be just a memory for the next generation. More must be done. More people need to understand, to change their behavior.

And that’s why we are here today. You have the power to help end wildlife trafficking. You can demonstrate your commitment to the global community by refusing to buy wildlife products or eat wild meat. And you can help build a better, more responsible future by telling your friends and family not to use those products either.

I hope you learn from our panelists today. I hope you ask questions and engage, and leave inspired. The more we know and the more we work together, the more successful we will be.