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Vietnamese Shelter Takes in Four Smuggled Wallabies Available for Adoption

Smugglers likely dropped the wallabies when smuggling them from Australia, authorities said. Four wallabies smuggled to Vietnam will be transported to their new home in the country’s northwest region after authorities ruled out releasing them back to the wild.

On the morning of Nov. 8, residents found the first wallaby in the bushes on the outskirts of Cao Bang province in Vietnam’s rural north. They discovered two additional wallabies the following day on the street and on Nov. 11, forest rangers spotted the fourth one.

Videos and images on social media showed Vietnamese rangers using nets and a bag to catch the wallabies.

Smugglers likely brought the animals from Australia and “dropped them along the Vietnam-China border,” according to Vietnamese authorities. A wallaby found in Cao Bang, north of Vietnam, on Nov. 10, 2023. (Vietnam Travel Community/Facebook)

The Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources identified them as red-neck wallabies, which are middle-sized macropods native to temperate and fertile parts of eastern Australia and Tasmania.

At the time of being captured, each of the wallabies weighed about 8 to 10 kilograms and were in healthy condition.

This is the first time this species has been found in the region. Wallabies To Find Second Home Vietnam’s hot and humid climate, as well as its geographical conditions, are not suitable habitat for wallabies, which live in hot and dry climates.

The wallabies will be sent to the Hoang Lien Center For Animal Rescue, Conservation and Development based in Lao Cai in Vietnam’s northwest.

Toi Van La, CEO of the Hoang Lien Center For Animal Rescue, Conservation and Development based in Lao Cai, in Vietnam’s northwest, said a representative from his centre would adopt the four wallabies.

The four wallabies will be kept in the shelter in Thach An district before they are sent to the Hoang Lien centre, which belongs to Hoang Lien’s national park, spanning an area of 68,569 hectares.

“We’re planning to place the four wallabies in the safari in a 200-meter squared wide area, half of which is nature landscapes, the other half is the shelter. We will also be adding natural elements and making caves to provide the wallabies with a living environment,” Mr. La said on Nov. 14, according to the Vietnamese newspaper Dan Tri.

He noted that the wallabies will be fed a diet of vegetables, fruits, and leaves.

Due to a lack of prior experience, the centre will seek advice from experts and international animal welfare organizations on how to take care of the wallabies, Mr. La added.

A spokesperson of Animals Asia advised against releasing the wallabies into the wild and instead recommended bringing them to a zoo or safari.

Under Vietnamese law, there are five ways to handle forest animals: returning them back to the wild; rescuing; transferring them to a zoo, scientific center, museum, or education center; selling; or killing them.

Wallabies don’t belong to the list of rare endangered animals, and Vietnam does not sanction the import of the species. Wild Animal Trafficking Ben Pearson, Country Director at World Animal Protection, called on the government to investigate the origin of the wallabies and work with Vietnamese authorities to make sure the wallabies are taken after.

He told Yahoo News Australia that it’s hard “not to be suspicious that they were somehow smuggled” from Australia to Vietnam.

Mr. Pearson also said that these animals are potentially victims of animal trafficking, adding that they “may have come from a private zoo—but it’s the pet trade really that seems to go on there.”

Illegal animal trade is a multi-billion dollar criminal industry that removes animals from their natural habitat and puts them through horrific cruelty and mistreatment. The industry is estimated at US$10-$23 billion per year, according to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF).

Australia’s wildlife, which boasts a diverse range of unique animals and plants, is a “prized trophy to domestic and overseas collectors and lucrative to sellers and organized criminals,” said the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC).

A Financial Crime Guide by AUSTRAC said Australian native animals are most often traded with buyers from the exotic pet market, including reptiles, such as lizards, turtles, and snakes.

“Demand for Australian animals can be found worldwide; however, investigations have identified international buyers are more likely to come from Asia with high demand for trafficked animals in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan,” the report said.

Trafficked Australian lizards, for example, can be sold for about $1,000 with some breeds costing around $20,000.

Australia’s national environmental law made it illegal to export a living Australian native mammal, reptile, bird, or amphibian to another country for a commercial purpose. This maximum penalty would be 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of 1,000 penalty units ($313,000 at July 2023), or both.

“Typically, wildlife trafficking in Australia starts with an overseas trader sourcing animals to sell for the exotic pet market. The overseas trader requires a domestic contact in Australia, referred to as a coordinator, who uses domestic traders, breeders, and poachers to obtain the animals required,” the report noted.

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