Million Dollar Vietnam Rhino And Elephant Ivory Up In Smoke

Vietnam, the war-torn country of the 60s is back in the news fighting a modern-day battle. This time it’s a humanitarian effort to bust-up the illegal wildlife trafficking of rhinoceros and elephant ivory. Estimated at $7 million dollars on the black market, horns and tusks were seized and set on fire to send an emphatic signal to poachers that this practice is no longer to be tolerated.

Who Starts the Fire?

In excess of two tons of elephant tusks and 70kg of rhino horns were crushed and added to a massive bonfire on the outskirts of the Vietnam's capital Hanoi this past week. The pernicious practice of poaching ivory in Vietnam is used to derive profits for the communist country's growing elite. The seized wildlife appendages came from some 330 African elephants and 23 rhinos that were slaughtered.

"The destruction today is a clear indication of our government's political determination to fulfil our international duty in conventions to protect wildlife," said Ha Cong Tuan, Vietnam's deputy agriculture minister.

By the Numbers . . .

Within two short years, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed illegally to meet the global avaricious demand for ivory. During this past decade, poachers killed more than 6,000 rhinos across Africa, with more than 1,300 taken in 2015 alone.  

The ivory tusk and rhino horn trade has been officially banned in Vietnam. However, the Southeast Asian country is a popular transit corridor for illegal wildlife trafficking destined for neighboring China, the main market that fuels this illicit and lucrative business.

"Elephants are disappearing in certain areas and rhinos have almost disappeared, so it is important to show the willingness of the whole world to fight against poaching," Mozambique's ambassador to Vietnam, Gamaliel Munguambe, told AFP news agency.

Conservationists and animal advocacy groups have urged Vietnam's government to crack down on smugglers who continue to facilitate the trade.

"Vietnam is doing so much in terms of educating the public, trying to reduce demand, increasing the number of seizures - it's a lot of positive news here, but there are some holes," said Teresa Telecky, director of Wildlife at Humane Society International.

Firing Forward . . .

Her appeal urged the government to increase DNA sampling of ivory and rhino horn to track where it originated, in a concerted effort to cut off supply chains.

Setting the tusks and horns ablaze came prior to a major international wildlife conference in Hanoi opening November 17 that will be attended by Britain's Prince William, who has championed animal conservation. Let’s hope at that assembly, this horrendous practice will begin to put to rest in all countries, going forward.

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