A campaign entitled ‘Buy 1, Get 15’ is highlighting the illegality of consuming wildlife products and helping to raise awareness of the issue in Vietnam with an unexpected twist.
Shoppers who visit Van Hanh Mall in District 10, Ho Chi Minh City these days have been drawn by banners promoting what appears to be a grand sales campaign.
The offer seems too good to be true: 'Buy 1, Get 15,' which at first glance might lead one to believe they can get 16 items for the price of one.
However, the organizers behind the campaign, CHANGE and WildAid, on Monday said the meaning behind the slogan was actually “buy one [wildlife product and you will] get 15 [years in jail].”
Trading, trafficking, or consuming endangered wildlife products such as rhino horn, ivory, and pangolins are considered crimes in Vietnam, punishable by up to 15 years of imprisonment or VND15 billion (US$650,000) in fines.
The ‘Buy 1, Get 15” campaign will last until January 24 to call upon the public not to buy, give and receive rhino horn, ivory, and pangolins to avoid becoming law offenders as Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is just around the corner.
|From right: Businesswoman Helly Tong, singer Quang Vinh, Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Niê, journalist Trac Thuy Mieu, and organizers of the ‘Buy 1, Get 15’ campaign against illegal wildlife trafficking attend an event in Ho Chi Minh City on December 30, 2019. Photo: CHANGE|
About half of the people buying and receiving wildlife products such as rhino horn, ivory and pangolin scales are not aware or well-informed about regulations relating to managing and protecting wildlife in the Vietnamese Penal Code, according to the findings of a 2018 research by USAID Saving Species Vietnam.
Specifically, Article 244 of the Penal Code prescribes that those trading, storing and trafficking products from endangered, precious and rare wildlife are liable to a fine of up to VND15 billion or face a penalty of up to 15 years behind bars.
At the event, CHANGE managing director Thoi Thi Chau Nhi discussed the current situation of the global illegal wildlife trade.
The crime of wildlife trafficking only ranks behind drug, weapon and human trafficking in terms of profitability, Nhi said, which has caused many precious and rare animals to face extinction, notably rhinos, elephants, and pangolins.
Vietnam is not only one of the biggest consumption countries, but also a key hub of international trafficking and trade of illegal wildlife products, she added.
|A launch event for the ‘Buy 1 Get 15’ campaign against illegal wildlife trafficking at Van Hanh Mall in Ho Chi Minh City on December 30, 2019. Photo: CHANGE|
Visitors to Van Hanh Mall were also surprised to meet Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Nie and singer Quang Vinh at the event on Monday.
“Born and grown up in the wilderness, nature is an inseparable part in me,” said Nie, who is the campaign’s goodwill ambassador.
The beauty queen added that she hoped to change the minds of the people in her hometown in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak on the issue of wildlife conservation through her role.
“Since I was a little girl, I have known that the Ede people love elephants and believe they are their friends,” she said, referring to her ethnicity.
“However, recently, I have noticed that there were some rumors spreading among the villagers, [and] they started to give out ivory gifts in the belief that they would bring good luck.”
Nie acknowledged that seeing her calling for an end to the consumption of wildlife products might not be easy for the people in her hometown, but she expressed her hope that her action could lead to better change.
“We should maintain the balance of nature. Otherwise, there will come a day when human beings will be left alone on Earth as other creatures would have gone extinct."
|Singer Quang Vinh (R) and Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Nie attend an event to launch the ‘Buy 1 Get 15’ campaign against illegal wildlife trafficking in Ho Chi Minh City on December 30, 2019. Photo: CHANGE|
‘Buy 1, Get 15’ is an event under the ‘When the buying stops, the killing can too’ project initiated by CHANGE and WildAid in Vietnam with an aim to change the awareness and behaviors of Vietnamese people related to using products from endangered wildlife, in order to help reduce killing and trading of these species and save them from extinction.
Globally, ‘When the buying stops, the killing can too’ has received the participation of many influential figures in different fields including royalties Prince Charles, Prince William, actor Leonardo DiCaprio, actress Li Bingbing, footballer David Beckham, and business magnate Sir Richard Branson, as well as support from numerous major media agencies.
CHANGE, or Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment, is a Vietnamese NGO that works to raise awareness, change behavior and develop community capacity to solve climate change, wildlife trade, and other environmental issues.
WildAid is the only wildlife protection organization that focuses on minimizing consumer demand for wildlife products.
|From left: Journalist Trac Thuy Mieu, organizers, businesswoman Helly Tongm, and Miss Universe Vietnam 2017 H’Hen Nie at an event to launch the ‘Buy 1 Get 15’ campaign against illegal wildlife trafficking in Ho Chi Minh City on December 30, 2019. Photo: CHANGE|