On Sunday, authorities reported that 55 pieces of rhino horns were recovered encased in plaster at an airport in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. The seizure is part of a crackdown operation to unravel the sophisticated smuggling world.
Customs officers broke open the plaster moulds after the carefully disguised shipment aroused suspicion. The officers reported that the 125-kilogram haul took half a day to break open.
The origin of the rhino horns is yet to be elucidated. On the same day, seven frozen tigers were discovered in the basement of Hanoi skyscraper.
Vietnam is a major rhino consumer, crediting it to numerous medical powers. Rhino horn is believed to cure a myriad of health problems ranging from hangovers to cancer. It is also used as a recreational drug. According to the World Wildlife Fund: a single horn is worth $100,000 in Asian countries like China and Vietnam. At the global market, it is worth more than $500 million.
The communist state is also a popular transit point for the multibillion animal parts trade such as elephant ivory. Ivory ends up mostly in China and the United States where it used to make jewellery and home decorations.
Nearly a week ago, Singapore made a record seizure of almost 9 tonnes of ivory and a large stash of pangolin scales headed to Vietnam.
Despite the rhino horn trade being banned in the 1970s, poachers have continued to decimate the rhino population in Africa. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about half a million rhinos in the wild worldwide. Now, conservationists estimate that the population is down to about 29,000. Illegal poaching has seen the wild rhinoceros go extinct in Mozambique. In Asia, the number of tigers has shrunk so much, it is devastating. Tigers could be found across most of Asia but they are now found to be living on less than six percent of their historical range.
Hanoi has sworn that it remains devoted to curbing the illegal wildlife that passes through its borders but the black market continues to thrive. Experts remark that weak law enforcement is the biggest hindrance.
The United Nations says that organized crime syndicates make billions of dollars from illegal trafficking of wildlife, drugs, counterfeit goods, and people. The report recommends governments in Southeast Asia to review their criminal legislation to equip law enforcement agencies with the authority to follow the financial flows related to wildlife crime. This will enable them to prosecute for money-laundering offenses.
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