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Vietnamese police nab 3 tons of illicit ivory

VIETNAMESE authorities have seized nearly 3 tons of ivory hidden among boxes of fruit, officials said yesterday, the latest haul to spotlight the country’s key role in the global wildlife smuggling trade.

Police in the central province of Thanh Hoa found 2.7 tons of tusks inside cartons on the back of a truck that was on its way to Hanoi, they said on their website.

“This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province,” the report said.

State media said the elephant tusks came from South Africa.

The truck driver said he was unaware of what he was transporting, state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.

The global trade in ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

There are now believed to be about 415,000, with 30,000 illegally killed each year.

Prices for a kilogram of ivory can reach as high as US$1,100.

Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but the country remains a top market for ivory products prized locally for decorative purposes, or in traditional medicine despite having no proven medicinal qualities.

Weak law enforcement has allowed a black market to flourish, and Vietnam is also a busy thoroughfare for tusks trafficked from Africa destined for other parts of Asia.

Last October, Vietnam customs authorities discovered about 3.5 tons of elephant tusks at Cat Lai port in Ho Chi Minh city, all in crates of wood, including a hefty 2-ton haul packed into a single shipment.


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