Andy Murray joins calls for Vietnam to end illegal wildlife trade

Updated: 

World tennis number one Andy Murray has signed a petition by wildlife charity WWF calling on Vietnam to end its illegal wildlife trade.

The tennis champion, who is a WWF ambassador, added his name to the 155,000 signatures strong petition ahead of a conference on the illegal wildlife trade in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The Duke of Cambridge and governments from around the world will attend the conference, which follows on from similar events in London in 2014 and Botswana last year, and will see countries report on progress on commitments they made to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife at the previous meetings.

Vietnam is the world's largest illicit market for rhino horn, which is seen as a status item and - despite being made from the same material as fingernails - a medicine used to cure conditions from cancer to hangovers.

The country is also seen as playing a key role in the trafficking and consumption of illegal products including ivory, scaly anteater or pangolin scales and tiger skins.

It will be facing tough scrutiny over its failures to crack down on the trade in illegal wildlife, which globally is driving many species towards extinction.

Some 1,338 rhinos and around 20,000 elephants were killed across Africa last year by poachers to feed illegal markets in horn and ivory, WWF said.

Murray said: "I have just signed the WWF petition to urge Vietnam to end its illegal trade in wildlife products. 

"Some of the world's most beautiful species are threatened by this horrendous crime - from tigers to pangolins to elephants to rhinos.

"It's up to each one of us to do our part and take a stand against it, so I encourage everyone to sign this petition." 

Glyn Davies, acting chief executive at WWF-UK, said: "The London Conference marked a historic moment in the battle against the illegal wildlife trade.

"It sent a strong message to the world that governments are committed to tackling this crime. Yet two years on and we're still in the midst of a poaching epidemic.

"On average more than two elephants are poached every hour and a pangolin is taken from the wild every five minutes.  In Hanoi we need to see governments pledge to time-bound solutions which are implemented without delay." 

WWF's petition, which has signatories from around the world, will be handed to the Vietnamese government at the meeting in Hanoi.