It is illegal to buy, sell, trade, or own an endangered animal in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the "Exotic Animal Market" is a prominent and permanent structure in the middle of Saigon and even gets listed in the tourist guidebooks.
SOME BASIC FACTS|
Most animals in the market are infants. The hunters catch them by shooting the mothers and gathering the young. This decimates the population of breeding females.
A bear is worth about $3000 on the open market - $1,500 for its gall bladder and $1,500 for its meat and skin. The average Vietnamese farmer makes about $200 per year off of his fields.
The biggest danger to Vietnam's endangered animals is deforestation. Vietnam only has 10% of its first-growth rainforest left, and even that is dwindling fast.
As Vietnam's animal population starts to dry up (from both poaching and deforestation) Cambodia is increasingly tapped for its endangered animals. Many animals are born and caught in Cambodia, smuggled into Vietnam, and shipped to China.
Animals caught north of the DMZ are most likely to go to Hanoi/Haiphong and get shipped by truck to China. Animals caught south of the DMZ are likely to go to Saigon. If they are not consumed domestically they are shipped to China by sea.
THE OFFICIAL STORY
Despite the large number of endangered animals crossing the border into China, Vietnam does not officially allow any of its endemic animals to leave the country - so foreign zoos cannot stockpile its dwindling endangered species.
After the discovery of the sao la in Vietnam, three live specimens were captured (one an infant). They were all immediately taken by the Vietnamese government and sent directly to the Hanoi zoo. All were dead within six months.
The Hanoi zoo has placards above all of the animal cages, explaining each animal's name, habitat, life span, breeding habits, and usefulness to man. "Pharmaceutical value" is listed under almost every animal.
SMUGGLING ANIMALS TO FREEDOM
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