Tonnes of elephant tusks smuggled into Vietnam: reports
HANOI (AFP) - - Vietnam customs officials have uncovered up to five tonnes of elephant tusks smuggled in from Tanzania, state media said Saturday.
The tusks were found Friday hidden in around 114 boxes of plastic waste after being transported from Africa through Malaysia to Vietnam's northern Hai Phong port, said the Tuoi Tre newspaper.
The Thanh Nien newspaper quoted Dang Tat The, a national wild animal expert, as saying the tusks were from African elephants.
It was not yet clear if the tusks were for selling in Vietnam or if they were smuggled in for onward movement, the papers said, but officials were chasing the owner of the goods.
Ivory and ivory-based products sell well in Vietnam, with the main buyers including Chinese, Thai and local and overseas Vietnamese, wildlife trade monitoring organisation Traffic said last month.
According to a Traffic survey, ivory prices in Vietnam could be the world's highest, with tusks reportedly selling for up to 1,500 dollars per kilogram and small, cut pieces selling for up to 1,863 dollars per kilogram.
The trend has put elephants in Indochina under increasing threat, it said, adding that wild elephant numbers in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia dropped from an estimated 6,250 in the late 1980s to 1,510 in 2000.
Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but shops can still sell ivory dating from before the ban. This allows some to restock illegally with recently-made carved items, the organisation said.