Ho Chi Minh City customs seize 5 kilograms of African rhino horn

By Quoc Thang   April 17, 2017 | 09:19 am GMT+7
Ho Chi Minh City customs seize 5 kilograms of African rhino horn
The rhino horns seized from the two passengers' luggage. Photo by VnExpress/H.Q.

The horns, valued at $265,000, were seized from two Vietnamese passengers returning from Africa.

Vietnam's anti-smuggling police have detained a man and a woman after customs officials found rhino horns hidden in their luggage as they arrived in Ho Chi Minh City late last week, the city customs said. 

Nguyen Thi Thao, 34, and Phung Anh Quan, 21, were taken in on Friday night shortly after they landed at Tan Son Nhat International Airport and customs officials found them suspicious.

A check of their luggage showed nearly 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of rhino horn cut into seven chunks. The parts were wrapped in aluminum foil and carefully hidden in gift packages, loudspeakers and other items.

The horns were later identified as belonging to a rare two-horned rhino species from Africa, which have a street value of over VND6 billion ($265,000).

“I found them pretty so I took them home,” Thao said, adding she didn't know she had broken the law.

The case is still under investigation.

The sale and purchase of rhino horn is strictly banned in Vietnam, though the country remains one of the biggest consumers of the critically-endangered creature.

Animal conservationists say rhinoceroses are being poached in South Africa at the rate of one animal every eight hours to meet demand mostly in China and Vietnam.

Along with a fast economic expansion, Vietnam developed its appetite for rhino horn about a decade ago after a specious rumor began circulating that it cured cancer, a myth conservation groups have bristled at. Vietnam's last Javan rhino, a rare Southeast Asian species, was found dead in 2010 with its horn hacked off.

Backed by the government, public awareness campaigns have helped discourage the trade and prices have fallen off  their peak of $70,000 per kilogram.