Vet joins fight against animal smugglers in Vietnam

Illegal transportation and smuggling of animals and meat is a threat to other stock and human health. The veterinarian head of Thu Duc District’s animal quarantine station talks about her role in stopping such activities. Hoang Loc reports.

After graduating in veterinary studies from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture and Forestry in 1995, Dang Thi Tuyet went on to become head of Thu Duc District’s Animal Quarantine Station, an area known for animal smuggling.

Initially, she was embarrassed to talk about herself, saying that she was just doing her job.

Due to her achievements and character, her friends, colleagues and even smugglers have given her the moniker “Tuyet lua” (in Vietnamese, her name Tuyet means “snow” and Lua means “fire”.)

At 3am, Tuyet calls the late-shift staff at the station to an urgent call near Dong Nai Bridge where smugglers often meet to split goods in an attempt to avoid customs officials.

Inspecting a shank: Dang Thi Tuyet checks rotten pork which smugglers were caught transporting in her jurisdiction. — Photo Courtesy of Thu Duc quarantine station

Inspecting a shank: Dang Thi Tuyet checks rotten pork which smugglers were caught transporting in her jurisdiction. — Photo Courtesy of Thu Duc quarantine station

Smuggler haul: Pork was seized by Thu Duc District Quarantine Animal Station workers.

Smuggler haul: Pork was seized by Thu Duc District Quarantine Animal Station workers.

Thirty minutes go by, and her staff are still waiting anxiously for Tuyet to arrive. After an hour, Tuyet calls them telling them to stay put while she pursues a truck transporting eight calves

In the early morning, cargo trucks rumble noisily along the highway, and Tuyet and her team are back in action. Asked how she recognizes which vehicles are likely to be carrying contraband goods, she smiles and replies: “That comes with the territory, I’ll let you know.”

When they arrive at Dong Nai Bridge, she spots five motorbikes carrying suspicious looking packages in nylon bags and styrofoam boxes. She tells her team to hold back, but the smugglers see them and try to flee.

Tuyet orders two of her team to give chase, and contacts local traffic police to give them a description of the suspects. When smugglers know that they have been identified, they often become reckless and willing to do anything to avoid capture, including dodging traffic across the high-speed road and threatening officers.

In the early morning of September 2, Tuyet and her inspectors followed a truck carrying 1,400 suckling pigs in iron cages and more than 800kg of pork packed in foam cartons.

The driver failed to present hygiene certificates or other documents to prove the origin of the goods, saying he had been hired to transport them to Binh Duong, Tuyet said.

A similar, more serious case occurred in early July in Thua Thien-Hue province when traffic police seized about 800kg of pork – all of which was rotten.

The reason Tuyet has been nicknamed “Fire Snow” is because on the surface, she seems cool and calm, but inside she hides a burning passion for her job, despite the dangerous nights and risks involved.

On one of those nights in May this year, Tuyet and her team discovered a large quantity of chicken legs and pig udders transported by truck from Ha Noi. It contained 10 tonnes of chicken legs and three tonnes of pig udders – all rotten, stained and stinking. The stench from the rotting flesh was enough to make them gag.

“A lot of the time the meat we seize has decomposed, and is riddled with maggots and bacterial diseases. If we don’t stop the smugglers, this meat could end up being served in restaurants and hotels, and even in people’s homes. The consequences are incalculable,” Tuyet said.

She added that smugglers have become very cunning. They find many ways to avoid inspectors and officials, and instead of carrying large quantities by truck, they often use motorbikes to carry smaller packages and escape detection.

Contraband goods are usually gathered on the other side of Dong Nai Bridge, and smugglers check to see if the bank is clear from inspectors before they attempt to transport them into the city. If they are detected, they are prepared to dump the goods in a bid to escape, and in some cases, threaten customs officials with knives. They also try to bribe inspectors, but Tuyet is incorruptible.

Lieutenant Colonel Pham Van Tuyen, deputy head of the Rach Chiec Traffic Police, said that in many cases violations are dealt with severely, and Tuyet has received several threatening text messages, but she remains undeterred.

Phan Xuan Thao, head of the Sub-department of Animal Health, said: “I appreciate her energetic enthusiasm for work. She is an exemplary officer and has won the admiration of all her colleagues.” — VNS






































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