There was a time
By Son Nguyen in HCMC
It is said that a rare fish species commonly known as dragon fish was caught in its natural habitat in the La Nga River in Dong Nai Province dozens of years ago, and ever since, not a single fish of this family has been spotted again. It is reported that herds of one-horned rhinos once roamed the vast forests in southern and central provinces decades ago, but not a single mammal of this rare animal exists in the country now after it was claimed last year that the last one had been killed. One after another, at least ten species of animals have become extinct in the country in the past 20 years, including one-horned and two-horned rhinos, tapirs, and grey bulls, says Nguoi Lao Dong, citing a report of Education for Nature Vietnam.
It is understandable why local media these days pay exceptional attention to the current losses of some individuals of the species endangered with extinction, especially the killing of grey-shanked doucs and the failure to salvage a rare bull in Central Vietnam. The bell of alarm is ringing up now that nature in the country is being threatened to the furthest extent.
Among stories front-paged on most local newspapers is perhaps the brutal killing of two grey-shanked monkeys by a young man, with many graphic pictures being posted on the social network Facebook. The douc of the pygathrix nemaeus family is an endangered species enlisted in the country’s Red Book and protected under prevalent laws. In the pictures that are made public, the young man, who is later found to be a soldier stationed in Central Vietnam, maltreats the poor animal, including inserting a cigarette into its mouth, tying up its hands and stabbing it. Readers in their comments in newspapers all show indignation and call for the sternest punishment against the man for his inhuman behavior, says Tuoi Tre.
Another highlighted case is a bull of the bos gaurus family that strays into Phu Bai Airport in Hue. Specialists from the HCMC Zoological and Botanical Garden fly to Hue City with an aim to salvage the giant mammal, but efforts to shoot anesthetic into the bull have failed, prompting the animal to die shortly after.
Nguyen Manh Ha, a specialist on bos gaurus, says in Vietnamnet that the death of the bull is all due to human mistakes, and this loss deals a blow to the campaign to protect this near-extinction species in the country. “There are only some 400 bulls of this species still living in the wild in Vietnam, and the death of this bull pushes the herd closer to depletion,” Ha is quoted as saying.
Nguoi Lao Dong questions the capability of Vietnamese specialists in salvaging endangered animals, referring to the numerous deaths of rare species upon being salvaged. These include the death this month of two giant tra fish weighing nearly 100 kilos each in the Mekong Delta that farmers caught from the river. The tra fish of this species is a critically-endangered animal and it is believed very few of them still live in the natural environment.
Local media calls for authorities to take more urgent and drastic actions to protect the endangered species, especially at a time when deliberate killings of such animals are becoming more widespread without proper punishment. There are several cases of rare primates being killed en masse by poachers covered in local papers.
Thanh Nien quotes an official in Danang City as saying the number of red-shanked monkeys in Son Tra Forest has tumbled by 15% within three years between 2007 and 2010. There are currently between 171 and 198 red-shanked doucs living in 12 herds in Son Tra Forest, accounting for one quarter of all red-shanked monkeys in Vietnam, according to the paper. However, this species is facing the high danger of extinction due to active poaching as well as the dwindling habitat due to the development of traffic works and tourism projects in Danang City.
Nguoi Lao Dong says many animals of endangered species are being raised in captivity and can be killed for meat at any time. In 2010 alone, authorities detained 34 tons of bush meat being trafficked, with half of it being bound for neighboring countries. “Without urgent protective measures, nature will be destroyed,” says the newspaper.
Other species endangered with extinction are also being hunted down, including Indochinese tigers and elephants. Vnexpress quotes official data to estimate that there are only some 30 tigers still live in the wilderness, while in the last seven years, law enforcement agencies have busted rings transporting as many as 29 tigers.
It is no wonder why the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in a report this week has given Vietnam together with Laos and Mozambique the worst rankings in protecting endangered species.
“Vietnam, Laos and Mozambique are the countries that do the least to crack down on an illegal trade in animal parts that is threatening the survival of elephants, rhinos and tigers,” the WWF asserts, accusing that demand for rhino parts in Vietnam “has fuelled a poaching crisis South Africa.”
There was a time when big herds of one-horned rhinos were said to roam forests in the Central Highlands, the website Thoi Dai reports, quoting an elderly tribesman in the region. What is left now is merely some pictures as illustration of the animal referred to by tribesmen as one-horned rhinos.
There was a time when red-shanked primates lived aplenty throughout Vietnam and Laos, until now when it is understood that the primates face the extinction.
Then there would come a time when many more endangered species like tigers or elephants or bears will be gone for good if much tougher punitive sanctions are not taken right now. It is feared that the day will come for future generations when learning about such animals are told the story that begins with ‘Once upon a time.’
The Saigon Times Daily