Pet hamsters banned in Vietnam
Vietnam has banned the sale and possession of hamsters, whose popularity has been soaring.
The Ministry of Agriculture says anyone caught with a hamster will be fined up to 30m dong ($1,900) - almost double the average annual wage in Vietnam.
The authorities say the creatures are a potential source of disease.
Officials have also expressed concern that the animals are imported from China and Thailand without proper licensing or controls.
In a tropical Asian country like Vietnam, hamsters are not a traditional pet of choice.
That role has normally been held by various types of fish.
But a combination of factors including growing incomes and the Chinese Year of the Rat have made the beady-eyed rodents highly desirable.
They have been trading for $10 to $20 each and are reported to be a hit with the young population of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, spawning a whole sub-culture of hamster forums and hamster clubs.
But the authorities are concerned.
Traded illegally over the Chinese or Thai borders, the hamsters are unlicensed and unchecked.
The Ministry of Agriculture has highlighted the risk of disease.
The animals are just one of many imports that escape adequate scrutiny or epidemiological control in Vietnam.
A recent survey alarmingly showed that most anti-malaria drugs - in Vietnam and other countries of the region - were fakes traced back to China.
And reports abound of other counterfeit or dangerous items sold for human consumption - including rather startling internet rumours of a trade in fake chicken's eggs.
By Andre Vornic - BBC News - March 7, 2008.
Vietnam seizes 17 more tonnes of smuggled pangolins
Customs police in Vietnam have discovered at least 17 more tonnes of slaughtered pangolins being smuggled from Indonesia to China.
The finds comes just a week after seizing a then-record seven tonnes of the endangered animals.
The pangolin carcasses were found today in two containers at the port of Haiphong, 100 kilometres east of Hanoi, according to city customs official Vu Hoang Duong.
"The pangolins in one of the containers weigh 8.5 tonnes, and we are still weighing those in the other container," Duong said.
"The total will be at least 17 tonnes."
Duong said the containers, like the one seized last week, were registered as fresh fish and were on their way from Indonesia to China, transiting through Haiphong.
"It's an amazing number of pangolins being smuggled, including the seven tonnes we detected last week," Duong said.
"I think many Chinese people love eating wild animals, including pangolins."
Duong said officials had not yet decided what to do with the pangolin carcasses.
The scaly anteaters are a protected species in Vietnam, and it is illegal to transport or trade them.
Animal smuggling is widespread in Vietnam, where eating wild game, such as snakes, bears and even tigers, is an elite hobby.
In January, customs officials at Hanoi's Noi Bai Airport seized 1.5 tonnes of live snakes in the cargo hold of a commercial flight from Bangkok.
The snakes, registered as fish, were also destined for China.
Last year, Vietnam seized more than 66 tonnes of smuggled wild animals, according to the Ministry of Agriculture's Forest Protection Department.
Deutsche Presse Agentur - March 7, 2008.