Weighing more than a tonne and hidden inside bundles of cloth, more than a tonne of ivory has been confiscated from a river boat near the city of Mong Cai, close to the country's border with China.
Vietnamese officials say that scientific analysis confirms that all 211 items seized during the raid last month were, as suspected, African elephant ivory.
Three people, all Chinese citizens, have been arrested and taken into custody for further questioning.
'This is an important seizure'
‘TRAFFIC commends Vietnamese Customs on this important seizure, which is indicative of the increasing illegal trade of ivory within Southeast Asia. It is imperative that the origin and destination of the shipment be identified by authorities,' said Chris Shepherd, Deputy Regional Director of TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
‘It is vitally important that officials investigate the movement of ivory from Vietnam into China and prosecute those involved. This will require a co-ordinated effort among enforcement agencies in Asia and Africa. Only through joint co-operation between producer and consumer countries can the trafficking of ivory be effectively tackled.'
Officials believe that the shipment was intended for buyers in China and it is thought to have originated from Africa. Globally, illicit trade in ivory has been escalating since 2004 and demand from Asia is considered to be the leading driver of elephant poaching in Africa.
'Grim figures illustrate how active this illegal trade route is'
‘Since 2009, Vietnamese authorities have seized 9.3 tonnes of elephant ivory and earlier this year Chinese authorities apprehended another 2.2 tonnes of ivory moving across the Vietnamese border into a remote area of China,' says TRAFFIC's ivory trade expert, Tom Milliken.
‘These grim figures are testimony to just how active this illegal trade route is.'
This incident comes shortly after Vietnamese authorities seized more than 200 kg of ivory being smuggled in the north central province of Nghe An in September. Three men connected to the shipment were arrested by local authorities and are currently being held awaiting prosecution.
Finally, as a shocking ‘hot-off-the-press' footnote, according to a Vietnamese media report, customs in the port of Hai Phong seized 300 kg of ivory on at the beginning of the month. It is said to be imported by a company based in Mong Cai.