2.4 tons of ivory seized at Vietnam port

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Customs officers at a Ho Chi Minh City port Monday (July 30) seized 2.4 tons of ivory from a container labeled as having cow leather.

The officials at ICD Phuoc Long 3 Port opened the container belonging to the city-based Thai Minh Export-Import Limited Company ostensibly containing cow leather imported from Mozambique.

The shipment had arrived late June but company representatives failed to show up to collect it despite repeated reminders, and customs then decided to open it.

They found 158 elephant tusks hidden in 28 wooden barrels, worth an estimated US$5 million.

Local authorities said investigations into the case are ongoing.

In March 2009 authorities in the northern city of Hai Phong had seized nearly seven tons of ivory smuggled in from Tanzania, Vietnam's biggest-ever seizure.

Though Vietnam banned the ivory trade in 1992, seizures are reported periodically in the country, with elephant tusks often arriving in ports disguised as other products.

But recently, on July 18, customs at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCMC seized 137 kilograms of tusks from two Vietnamese passengers who had flown in from Thailand.

According to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), the world's largest database on ivory seizures, demand in China is a significant driver of the ivory trade, with Thailand and Vietnam highlighted as countries of concern in the region.

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Elsewhere, on Monday, police in Quang Binh Province seized a frozen tiger carcass and tiger bones from a car they flagged down.

The carcass weighed 148 kilograms and was 2.34 meters long, while the bones, believed to be from a smaller tiger, weighed 34 kg.

The car also contained turtle shells and the bones of unidentified animals besides several license plates, including military and government plates.

Ho Van Bang, 41, the driver, and Nguyen Van Ngon, 39, a passenger, claimed they did not know what was in the sacks they were carrying. They were arrested and handed over to provincial investigators.

Investigators said the duo had attempted to bribe the traffic police.

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