Vietnam: ivory, pangolin scales worth millions seized by customs

Ivory, pangolin scales worth millions of dollars have been seized in Vietnam. Vietnamese customs has seized more than eight tons of ivory and pangolin scales hidden in a boat from Nigeria, one of the African countries most involved in smuggling of white gold, we learned Friday from the police.

This is the most important seizure of recent years, local media said. Last week, 805 kilograms of pangolin scales and 193 kilograms of ivory, also from Nigeria, had already been seized.

Although the ivory trade has been officially banned in Vietnam since 1992, the country is a market of choice for elephant tusks, as well as being a transit point to neighboring China.

Catches are frequent: in 2017, 2.7 tons of tusks, concealed behind a truck, were found in the center of the country and 3.5 tonnes seized in Ho Chi Minh City in the year before.

The illegal ivory trade is the third most profitable form of trafficking after narcotics and weapons. It is fueled by strong demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicine and ornamentation. It can be resold up to 8,000 dollars per kilogram.

As for the scales of pangolins, they are sought in South-East Asia for their supposed medicinal properties against acne, cancer or impotence. Despite the ban on its trade since 2016, the animal can still be bought in stalls in Hong Kong, where its scales are selling for gold.

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A million have been hunted in the forests of Africa and Asia in the last decade, as appetite for the quadruped grew immensely in China or Vietnam.

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Eric Thomas

Eric, originally from Nigeria, currently resides in Florida and covers a wide range of topics for The talking Democrat.