NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 19 – Vietnam is among the world’s biggest illegal ivory market according to a survey report released by Save the Elephants on Tuesday.
Esmond Martin, one of the researchers explained that Vietnam was the most active illegal market for raw ivory and the highest illegal exports for final ivory products in the world.
“The Vietnamese illegal ivory trade is one of the largest in the world,” Martin explained.
Originally, Vietnam smuggled ivory from South East Asia and after it exhausted the source, ivory traders turned their greed to African elephants.
According to the report, smuggling of ivory in Vietnam shot up from 2,444 ivory items in 2008 to 16,099 in 2015.
Unlike China where ivory is expensive and available in the cities, in Vietnam, cheap ivory is easily available in the village creating a perfect market for Chinese traders.
“The Chinese are coming in large numbers last year and they buy the ivory at very cheap rates mostly in villages and they bring out of Vietnam illegally and bring it to China illegally,” Martin explained.
Though Vietnam has made trade of ivory illegal, the law has not been fully implemented, which explains why ivory businesses operate openly on the streets and in the villages according to the report.
For illegal trade to stop in Vietnam, Martin explained that the law has to be fully implemented.
Due to weaknesses in the enforcement of laws on ivory trade, Vietnam serves as the focal point for traders in other countries, with China finding a convenient spot nearer home.
Whereas Vietnamese traders specialise more in smaller ivory products such as jewellery, China’s main interests are bigger ivory items especially the gods making them a bigger market.
According to Ian Douglas, one of the researchers at Save The Elephants, the bulk of the ivory entering Vietnam is smuggled from Africa which is grappling with saving its elephants whose population has been reducing over the years.
Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared his political will to fight illegal ivory trade when he announced that his country would work with the United States to ban import and export of ivory.
With China being one of the world’s largest consumers and marketers of ivory, the statement requires action to ensure it is fully employed as Douglas explained.
Without a ready market for ivory, Douglas believed illegal trade will reduce hence reducing poaching of elephants.
“In China the hope now is that there will be great measures follow up on Chinese President but between saying and the doing there is always a gap and in this case, the problem of illegal ivory trading has shifted across the border into Vietnam,” he explained.