In the last decade, Southeast Asia has been at the center of global attention regarding emerging infectious diseases. There, large-scale changes in human ecology, including human encroachment on wildlife habitat and an increase in wildlife trade, have spurred the increased contact between wildlife and humans, between wildlife and livestock, or between previously separated wildlife species. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, wildlife in Vietnam was frequently indiscriminately hunted, consumed, and traded throughout the country to the extent that larger vertebrate defaunation (mammals, birds, reptiles) is common in heavily hunted sites, such as in the protected area system throughout the Central Annamites. On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), the KfW Development Bank, in cooperation with WWF, is financing measures to preserve the Central Annamites ecosystem since 2019. The project supports forest patrols in two Saola Nature Reserves in T.T. Hue and Quang Nam province. On average, more than 35 snares and wires per day are detected and destroyed in those two protected areas. This number has been reduced by more than half since the onset of the patrolling. Anti-poaching measures not only help threatened wildlife to thrive, but also reduce the risk of dangerous pathogens reaching wildlife trade nobs, such as markets and restaurants. Those measures in combination with the pandemic situation resulted in the fact that major players in the wildlife trade have stopped their business. In particular, closing the international border stopped the transboundary trade (legal and illegal) between Laos and Viet Nam; restaurants were prompted to close according to government regulations; public transportation systems have stopped operation and cut the flow of wildlife products. Illegal wildlife trade violations by restaurants, traditional medical stores and markets in Hue and Da Nang, the former urban hubs for wildlife consumption, dropped by more than 90%. It remains to be seen as to whether this trend is permanent, but the conditions look bright since the Prime Minister’s Directive No. 29 on urgent solutions to manage wildlife, request courts and prosecutors to impose strict penalties on those who abuse their position and authority to commit wildlife crimes. Furthermore, a consumer opinion survey on wildlife consumption and trade in Vietnam revealed a broad societal support for measures by governments to close illegal and unregulated markets selling wildlife.
THE INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE INITIATIVE [IKI]