Police in the northwestern Lao province of Oudomxay have seized a large quantity of dead wildlife poached in violation of Lao law and sold openly in local markets and restaurants, sources in the country told RFA on Thursday.
The haul, seized in local markets from December 2019 to February this year, was made up of parts of deer, monkey, bats, birds, and wild boar and totaled around 155 kilograms, according to an official from the provincial Agriculture and Forestry Department.
“We can’t control all the trade and poaching here, because it’s a large area,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Also speaking to RFA, a provincial police officer said, “We confiscated the wildlife and fined and re-educated the sellers, making sure that they now understand the law.”
In spite of what officials have called “strict measures” aimed at curbing the trade in protected wildlife, though, local villagers still rely on wild animals for food, one villager said.
“We like to eat wild animals. This is our way of life,” he said.
China enacts nationwide ban
The seizure came as in neighboring China, the National People’s Congress Standing Committee approved a permanent nationwide ban on the consumption and illegal trade of wild animals.
China’s decision to shutter the estimated $74 billion industry was part of an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, which is thought to have originated in a wildlife market in Wuhan, and to have spread to humans from bats, civets, or pangolins.
Laos became a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty protecting endangered plants and animals, in May 2004.
On Jan. 5, 2018, a memo sent by the Lao prime minister’s office to government departments called for improved cooperation with CITES agreements aimed at blocking trafficking in endangered species.
Lao officials have not always enforced laws prohibiting the smuggling or sale of illegal wildlife products in the past, though, with some taking an active part in the trade or paid to look the other way.
Sales of banned wildlife products, especially ivory and tiger parts, reportedly continue in Chinese shops in the capital, Vientiane.
Reported and translated by Max Avary for RFA’s Lao Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.