Indochina’s remaining elephants are at risk from surging ivory prices in Vietnam, according to a new report from the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
In surveys of the illegal illegal ivory trade in Vietnam, TRAFFIC found some of the highest ivory prices ever recorded: with tusks selling for up to $1500/kg and small, cut pieces selling for up to $1863/kg.
“This is a worrying trend that indicates even more pressure is being put on already fragile Asian Elephant populations,” said Azrina Abdullah, Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. “Continued demand for illegal ivory is driving the prices so high.”
TRAFFIC says the raw ivory is coming from elephants in Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Live elephants are being smuggled from Myanmar (Burma).
Asia elephants can’t hide from ivory poachers. Around 1000 elephants survive in Lao PDR, while fewer than 150 remain in Vietnam.
TRAFFIC notes that traders take advantage of a loophole that allows shops to sell ivory that predates a 1992 ban.
“This allows some shop owners to restock illegally with recently-made carved ivory,” explained TRAFFIC in a statement.
TRAFFIC found that ivory is increasing sold in Vietnam via the Internet. The main buyers of ivory were from China (both Hong Kong and Taiwan) as well as Thailand, local Vietnamese, Vietnamese living in America and Europeans, in that order.
“This insidious illegal trade is further threatening the highly endangered elephants of Asia and must be stopped,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of the Species Program for WWF-International.
The report urges 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.” It says monitoring, enforcement, and prosecution needs to be tightened and that ivory for sale in retail outlets should be confiscated by the government and destroyed.