USAID-Supported Forensic Laboratory Contributes to Prosecution and Sentencing of Rhino Horn Trafficker in Vietnam

Speeches Shim

Friday, January 15, 2021

Vietnam is one of the largest destinations and transit points of illegal wildlife trade. DNA forensic test results are critical pieces of evidence to identify poached or illegally traded wildlife products and their geographic origin and are often necessary for the successful prosecution of wildlife crimes. In 2019, USAID Saving Species provided the Institute of Ecology and Biology Research (IEBR) with international-standard wildlife DNA forensics testing equipment and contributed funding to hire qualified personnel for forensic analysis processing. In 2020, IEBR addressed 183 DNA testing requests for wildlife trafficking cases from the Vietnamese Police, Customs, Forest Protection Department, and other agencies.

In March 2020, Can Tho International Airport customs officials arrested a man after finding rhino horns in his luggage, leading to the Can Tho City Police requesting IEBR’s assistance with DNA testing. As a result of IEBR’s forensic support, last month, the People’s Court of Can Tho City found Do Thanh Son guilty, sentenced him to 12.5 years in jail, and imposed a fine of nearly $5,000 for illegally transporting 28.7 kilograms (63 pounds) of white rhino horns from Mozambique. In addition, on December 22, 2020, Ho Chi Minh Environmental Police and the Customs Department of Tan Son Nhat International Airport discovered more than 51 specimens suspected to be African rhino horns (weighing more than 205 pounds). Samples were taken and sent to IEBR for forensic examination.

So What? USAID’s assistance to improve the speed and accuracy of wildlife DNA testing is increasing the effectiveness of wildlife crime investigation and prosecution in Vietnam, in alignment with the Indo-Pacific Vision’s goal of reducing transnational environmental crime.