Lifestyle Pets Vietnam Announces New Ban on Wildlife Imports and Wildlife Markets The new directive calls for stricter action against anyone involved in illegal wildlife trading By Claudia Harmata Published on July 27, 2020 04:11 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Photo: Getty Vietnam’s prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, issued a new directive last week that bans most wildlife imports into the country and cracks down on the illegal wildlife trade in the country. The move was in response to concerns about the link between pandemic diseases, such as COVID-19, and wildlife markets. It has been reported that the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) originated in late 2019 in a live-animal market in Wuhan, China. Vietnam officials hope the new ban will reduce the risk of future pandemics. "Vietnam’s directive clearly shows the government’s commitment to eradicating illegal wildlife trade and consumption. The directive bans wildlife imports with certain exemptions and urges the closure of illegal wildlife markets. It also discourages all citizens from illegally hunting, catching, buying, selling, transporting, slaughtering, consuming, storing and advertising wildlife," Phuong Tham, the Humane Society International/Vietnam director said in a statement. "These measures combined with strict management of wildlife farming are extremely welcome news in the global efforts to end wildlife exploitation and the grave risks for conservation, animal welfare, and human health it poses." Ricky Gervais Calls for Wet Markets — Where Coronavirus May Have Originated — to Close Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Fiona Goodall/Getty She added: "The existence of wildlife markets in many locations has been a big problem in Vietnam for a long time, with many Vietnamese people consuming endangered species such as cobra, turtle, and pangolin, as well as all manner of monkeys, birds and other unprotected species. Without stronger actions, Vietnam risks eating many of these species into extinction because they can so easily be purchased in markets, from street vendors and even just outside of our national parks. Vietnam’s rapacious appetite for wildlife is endangering not just these species’ survival, but as we have seen with the coronavirus outbreak, it is endangering people’s lives too, so this ban can’t come soon enough." The new directive puts a stop to the trading of wild species, as well as animal products like eggs, organs and body parts. It also calls for stricter action against anyone involved in illegal wildlife hunting, killing, or advertising. However, according to The Human Society of the United States, the ban "does not prohibit the domestic trade in wildlife, nor does it shut down legal wildlife markets, particularly those selling mammal and bird species that are known to contract coronaviruses." Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, also called the ban "insufficient" when speaking to Reuters. "The wildlife consumption ban mentioned in the directive is insufficient as some uses of wildlife such as medicinal use or wild animals being kept as pets are not covered," said Nguyen Van Thai, director of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife. "It would be better to have a clear and detailed list of the various uses of wildlife that are prohibited." Getty Vietnam is reportedly a hub for illegal wildlife products such as pangolin scales, elephant ivory and rhino horns, which are believed to have medicinal value. The Southeast Asian country is also known to traffic endangered species such as cobras, turtles, monkeys, birds, and more. China to Offer Buy-Outs to Farmers Raising Exotic Animals for Human Consumption: Report In April, the World Health Organization urged all countries to close wildlife markets because of the high risk they create for the spread of pathogens. "You know how WHO and other parts of the international system work — we don’t have the capacity to police the world. Instead, what we have to do is offer advice and guidance, and there’s very clear advice from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO that said there are real dangers in these kinds of environments," said Dr. David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy on COVID-19 and special representative of the United Nations secretary-general for food security and nutrition, while on BBC Radio 4’s Today program. "75 percent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom. It’s partly the markets, but it’s also other places where humans and animals are in close contact. Just make absolutely certain that you’re not creating opportunities for viral spread," he added. As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. 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