Last week, more than 100 police officers raided restaurants in Da Lat City, Vietnam. What they found was unappetizing: illegally poached animals of nearly 20 species. The authorities arrested more than a dozen restaurant owners for planning to serve meals of pangolins, porcupines, mouse deer, monitor lizards, bears, snakes, and other rare animalsamounting to more than 850 pounds of meat.

Criminal prosecutions are in store for the wholesaler who was supplying the restaurants with the unlawful wildlife goods. A larger investigation is also underway to determine where the animals were captured and what trading networks were involved in transporting and selling them.

“The detection and prosecution of restaurants illegally serving wildlife is a critical step in the battle for wildlife conservation in Vietnam,” said Mr. Tran Thanh Binh, head of Lam Dong Forest Protection Department. “The campaign today is our warning shot to illegal wildlife traders that Lam Dong province will not condone wildlife violators anymore.”

The raid that swept through Da Lat City and neighboring towns came after recent surveys revealed that 44 restaurants and 33 traditional Chinese medicine shops in the area were selling wildlife. The surveys are part of a campaign that WCS and its partners have developed to help curb the illegal wildlife trade.

“WCS commends the strong and decisive actions of Lam Dong province on tackling wildlife trade in Da Lat City and hopes these seizures will be followed up with investigations to identify and prosecute the illegal traders behind the restaurants,” said Scott Roberton of WCS-Vietnam. “The future of wildlife in Vietnam hangs in the balance, but with more agencies showing a strong commitment like Lam Dong Forest Protection Department, things could change for the better very quickly.”

In a related effort to keep threatened animals off dinner plates, WCS recently convinced the Travel Channel to re-edit episodes of the television shows No Reservations and Bizarre Foods. The two programs featured the consumption of illegal wildlife in restaurants in Vietnam and Cambodia.

“Illegal trade is the largest single threat to wildlife in Asia,” said Joe Walston, director of WCS-Asia. “Strict enforcement of existing laws, such as what is happening in Lam Dong, is crucial to stemming this crisis, so that wildlife can thrive for future generations.”