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CITES Vietnam, authorities say rhinos at Vinpearl Safari of legal origin

Thursday, February 25, 2016, 12:07 GMT+7
CITES Vietnam, authorities say rhinos at Vinpearl Safari of legal origin
Rhinos are seen at Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc Island, off Kien Giang Province, located in southern Vietnam.

The operator of Vinpearl Safari, a semi-wildlife park off the southern province of Kien Giang, is following all regulations with respect to animal origin and zoo management, according to representatives from the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and CITES Vietnam.

The safari park, spanning 500 hectares on the province’s Phu Quoc Island, has been accused by some online sources of causing the deaths of thousands of animals and purchasing animals of questionable and illegal origin.

The agriculture department, which inspected the operation of the zoo earlier this week, refuted the allegations, asserting that Vinpearl Safari has not violated any regulations regarding the importation, care, and management of animals of foreign origin.

The safari park currently raises and cares for 104 different species of birds, mammals, and reptiles, according to Wednesday’s official inspection results.

Fifty-six species were imported and the remaining 48 animal types have been domestically raised.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), an international treaty designed to protect endangered wildlife from extinction, has licensed the zoo to import 25 of the foreign species, according to the report.

There are 14 rhinos at Vinpearl Safari, which the Phu Quoc park borrows from an under-construction zoo in the southern province of Long An, the agriculture department said.

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Rhinos are seen at Vinpearl Safari on Phu Quoc Island. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In 2011 My Quynh Zoo Corp. was licensed to open a zoo of the same name in Long An, some 300km from Phu Quoc, but the facility will not officially open to visitors until next year. 

The company has a license from the Vietnamese unit of CITES to import the 14 rhinos and some other species from Africa, which it lent to Vinpearl Safari last year, according to director Lam Phuc Hoanh.

Hoanh confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday that the company has closed an animal lending agreement with Vinpearl Safari.

A representative of CITES Vietnam also told Tuoi Tre the same day that all of the animals in question have clear and legal origin.

In December 2015, the Long An forest management agency permitted My Quynh to transport 14 rhinos, six tigers, and eight lions to Phu Quoc.

“The animals belong to My Quynh, so the firm has the right to transfer or lend them,” the agency head Do Van La told Tuoi Tre on Wednesday.

The animals were kept at a facility in Ho Chi Minh City before being taken to Phu Quoc, La added.

“Our duty is to check if standards are met for the license and transport of the animals,” he said.

La added that there are two white tigers, two rhinos, and one lion left at My Quynh Zoo.

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A giraffe is seen at Vinpearl Safari. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Vinpearl Safari, developed by Vietnamese realty conglomerate Vingroup, opened to visitors last Christmas.

Several unverified sources have held Vingroup responsible for mass animal death at the facility and alleged that hundreds of the animal caretakers had fled the safari in a show of protest against the situation.

The official inspection by the Kien Giang agriculture department found that Vinpearl Safari had imported 2,236 animals, 108 of which died during the transporting process.

Other animals are in poor health after their failure to adapt to the new climate and environment, but no rare animals have died at the safari, according to the report.

The dead animals have been treated as per regulations.

The report also said that 135 macaques had managed to escape from their cages, which are designed to host larger monkeys, according to the agriculture department .

In the meantime, 12 animals were born at the zoo since opening, so the total number of animal at the park is currently 2,005, it added.

The department also rebuffed online reports that some animal caretakers had fled the safari park.

Vinpearl Safari had earlier sought permission to import some exotic plant species, but the Vietnam Administration of Forestry rejected the proposal.

There are now only domestic plants at Vinpearl Safari, according to the report.

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