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Report: Vietnam Among Biggest Illegal Ivory Markets

FILE - A Vietnamese man identified as Huu Dinh Khao (L) and two Togolese men stand next to a haul of ivory tusks after being seized by security forces at the port of Lome, Jan. 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Noel Kokou)
Report: Vietnam Among World’s Biggest Illegal Ivory Markets
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The conservation group Save the Elephants says Vietnam has become one of the world’s biggest illegal ivory markets. It also says that 75 percent of ivory buyers in Vietnam come from China.

The group recently published a report called “Vietnam’s Illicit Ivory Trade.”

The report found that more than 16,000 ivory items were for sale in over 240 stores across several Vietnamese cities. In a similar report in 2008, 2,400 products were for sale in the same places.

Esmond Martin is a researcher at Save the Elephants. He says most of the ivory tusks sold in Vietnam come from African ports on the Indian Ocean. He says that two-thirds of the ivory that leaves Africa goes to China and Vietnam.

And, while the Chinese ivory market has decreased in recent years, Vietnam’s ivory market has increased greatly, Martin says.

“The big difference between (the Chinese) and Vietnamese market is (that) the China market on the retail, legal side and perhaps on the illegal retail side has been going down but the Vietnam market has been absolutely booming.”

The investigators said the ivory trade had increased in Vietnam because of corruption, a lack of law enforcement and an increase in travelers in Asia.

The Chinese government has in the past few years strengthened its efforts to end the illegal elephant ivory trade. Researcher Lucy Vigne says that lower ivory prices have caused Chinese ivory buyers to cross the border into Vietnam.

"Prices in China are far higher than in Vietnam. That is why Vietnam is a major place for mainland Chinese to come down and buy ivory out of their country illegally.”

The report notes that prices for comparable ivory items cost three times more in Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai than they do in Vietnamese cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Iain Douglas-Hamilton is the founder and head of the Save the Elephants conservation group. He said it is important to close new ivory markets that are opening in Asia. He calls the recent study “a warning that when you think you are on the verge of solving a problem, it may shift across…the borders of other states.

“In this case, the problem now of illegal ivory-trading has shifted across the border with Vietnam.”

Experts estimate that 100,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory tusks between 2010 and 2012.

I’m Dorothy Gundy.

Mohammed Yusuf reported this story from Nairobi. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

illicit – adj. not allowed by law; unlawful or illegal

tusk – n. a very long, large tooth that sticks out of the mouth of an animal (such as an elephant, walrus or boar)