World’s largest ivory seizure: over nine tonnes of ivory seized in Da Nang, Vietnam

Vietnamese customs has seized over nine tonnes of ivory in a container shipment from the Republic of Congo, thought to be the largest ivory seizure ever made.

The seizure provides yet more evidence that organised criminal syndicates continue to exploit Vietnam as a hub for illegal wildlife trade.

The discovery was made by customs authorities in Da Nang during an inspection of a container of timber that had arrived from the Republic of Congo.

The seized ivory represents well over 1,000 dead elephants and brings the total weight of ivory seized in Vietnam since 2004 to above 70 tonnes, the equivalent of more than 10,000 dead elephants.

Vietnam has also been linked to seizures of approximately 24 tonnes of ivory in China, France, Kenya, Uganda and the UK, representing over 3,500 dead elephants.

Vietnam’s pivotal role in the illegal wildlife trade has been exposed time and again. Although the country has made many seizures, little enforcement follow-up has been recorded.

Our investigations have documented how weak law enforcement, corruption and a marked lack of political will in Vietnam have made the country an attractive centre of operations for transnational organised wildlife criminals.

Our recent report, Exposing the Hydrarevealed the operations of Vietnamese-led syndicates in illegally sourcing and trafficking ivory and other wildlife from Africa into Vietnam and China. However, to date, no notable enforcement action has been taken in Vietnam against the individuals we identified; instead the response of the Government of Vietnam has been to reject and deny our incontrovertible investigation findings, along with information from other sources.

Mary Rice, our Executive Director, said: “While we welcome today’s ivory seizure in Vietnam, we would emphasise that without follow-up efforts resulting in prosecutions and appropriate penalties, seizures alone are no deterrent to the criminals involved in wildlife trafficking.”

We urge Vietnam to urgently strengthen its response to address ivory trafficking, including by investigating and prosecuting traffickers and corrupt officials who enable wildlife trafficking into and out of Vietnam and by improving international cooperation with relevant source, transit and destination countries.

In a report published ahead of the 18thConference of the Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in May, Vietnam has been singled out as the leading destination for illicit ivory.

If world governments do not use this important meeting to adopt urgent measures against illegal wildlife trade, elephants stand little chance of surviving in the wild.