Saigon a hotspot for ivory trade: report

By Phan Anh   January 7, 2019 | 06:31 pm PT
Saigon a hotspot for ivory trade: report
Ivory confiscated in China. Many Chinese consumers are served by ivory smuggling in Vietnam. Photo by Shutterstock/plavevski
Saigon had the largest number of shops in Vietnam selling ivory items between 2016 and 2017, a wildlife trade report revealed recently.

"From Tusk to Trinket: Persistent illegal ivory markets in Vietnam" released by TRAFFIC, a U.K.-based wildlife trade NGO, last month said 852 physical outlets and 17 online platforms sold over 10,000 ivory items in 10 cities and three villages in Vietnam between November 2016 and June 2017.

Saigon had 556 outlets followed by Hanoi with 231.

Vietnam’s ivory industry could be linked to tourism from and to China, especially in four locations: Ha Long and Mong Cai towns in Quang Ninh Province across China border, and Don village and Lak District in Dak Lak Province in the Central Highlands, home to most elephants in Vietnam.

Chinese nationals bought from many sellers, shops often sent items directly to China and some ivory products had their prices quoted in foreign currencies, including the Chinese yuan.

Over 90 percent of ivory products sold both offline and online were jewelry due to their overall popularity and smaller size, making them easier to store, carry and transport, the report said.

While sellers consistently reported Vietnam to be the origin of the ivory items, the report suspected the ivory originated from foreign countries, more specifically from African elephants, as most of the ivory seized in Vietnam in recent years came from countries which are home to the species.

"Although retailers know that selling ivory is illegal, it does not deter them from offering it openly for sale in Vietnam," Sarah Ferguson, director of TRAFFIC in Vietnam, said in a statement.

The Vietnamese government should close legislative loopholes, strengthen law enforcement, keep better track of ivory markets, and implement behavior changes in ivory consumers to help tackle the trade, the report suggested.

Minh Nguyen, research and data management officer at TRAFFIC, said: "Until Vietnam takes decisive action against its persistent illegal ivory markets in line with its commitments under CITES [Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora], it will continue to undermine the international response to the elephant poaching crisis."

Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but smuggling has not stopped. The country remains one of the major transit points for tusks trafficked from Africa to China and other parts of Asia.

Since 2009 Vietnamese authorities have seized more than 56 tons of ivory. Another 20 tons linked to Vietnam were seized in other countries in the same period. This is equivalent to nearly 11,500 elephants.

Elephant ivory can fetch up to $1,100 per kilogram.

More than 20,000 African elephants are killed each year to meet demand for ivory trinkets and ornamental objects, according to a 2018 World Wildlife Fund report.

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