Vietnamese illegal ivory prices could be the highest in the world, with reports of tusks selling for up to USD1500/kg and small, cut pieces selling for up to USD1863/kg, putting the region’s Asian elephants under threat.
This is despite the official ban on this trade from the authorities in 1992.
Most of the raw ivory came from the Lao Peoples’ Democratic Republic, with small amounts from Vietnam and Cambodia. There are also reports that ivory trade is also present in Myanmar.
Some environment watchdogs believe that no more than 1,000 elephants exist in Lao PDR, while in Vietnam, fewer than 150 are believed to exist.
The region’s appetite for ivory is so great that even small quantities of mammoth ivory from Russia have made their way into the region although there is no evidence of trade in African raw ivory yet after its eradication from Vietnam in 2004.
One loophole in the system is attributed to the fact that Vietnamese law continue to allow shops to sell pre-1992 stock of ivory and retailers have managed to illegally mix the existing legal stock with newly-carved ivory.
With increasing demand for ivory, such illegal activities are set to increase.
There is also evidence that seem to suggest that most raw ivory is being supplied to China (including Hong Kong), Taiwan, Thailand, local Vietnamese, American-Vietnamese and Europeans, in that order of demand.
This ranking of demand confirms the 2008 news that more than 100 tonnes of elephant tusks, worldwide, were sold exclusively to Chinese and Japanese buyers where demand were the strongest.
Environmentalists urge the Vietnamese government to comply with its obligations under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), particularly regarding the reporting of ivory seizures.
More funding may be needed to provide better training for wildlife law enforcement officers.
IUCN, "Elephants under threat as illegal ivory price soars in Viet Nam" dated 16 February 2009 in the IUCN website [downloaded on 16 March 2009], available athttp://www.iucn.org/about/work/programmes/species/news_events/?2664/Elep...
RadioAustralia, "China and Japan drive African ivory trade" dated 29 Oct 2008 in the RadioAustralia website [downloaded on 17 March 2009], available athttp://www.radioaustralia.net.au/programguide/stories/200810/s2404339.ht...