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Wed Apr 23 23:11:22 SAST 2014

Smuggled African elephant tusks seized in Vietnam

Sapa-dpa | 06 May, 2011 07:160 Comments
Elephants. File photo
Image by: Reuben Goldberg

Vietnamese customs discovered nearly 600 kilograms of African elephant tusks hidden in a shipping container of rubber from Tanzania, authorities said Friday.

The authorities made the haul on Thursday after receiving a tip.

"Smuggled elephant tusks were hidden in a very sophisticated way," Vu Hoang Duong, head of customs at the port of Hai Phong, told the German Press Agency dpa. "They cut open tanks for holding rubber, filled them with elephant tusks and soldered them shut again."

Duong said the container had been labeled for temporary import, and was already registered for re-export to China by a Vietnamese company in the neighbouring province of Quang Ninh.

But the company refused delivery of the container after the customs inspection, saying the contained goods were not what it had ordered.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature, most elephant ivory smuggled into Vietnam is ultimately destined for China, but some is sold locally for 770 to 1,200 dollars per kilogram.

The biggest recent tusk haul in Vietnam was in March 2009 when customs agents in Hai Phong found more than six tons of elephant tusks in a container shipped from Tanzania.

International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989 with the exception of occasional auctions from stockpiles.

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