Customs officers at Tien Sa Port in the central city of Da Nang have seized more than 700kg of elephant tusks and rhino horns hidden inside blocks of fake marble shipped from Mozambique.
On Thursday afternoon, customs officers examined a shipment of two containers on board the King Prian ship that landed at the port on Monday.
According to the customs declaration form made for the goods, these containers contained raw natural marble worth VND450 million (US$20,250) and the importer was Da Nang-based Van An Co. Ltd..
During the inspection, customs officers discovered some suspicious signs in many blocks of marble in one of the two containers, so they decided to shatter some of them.
To their surprise, the smashed pieces of marble exposed elephant tusks and rhino horns hidden inside.
Such an inspection continued and the customs force finally found a total of 593kg of tusks and 142kg of rhino inside blocks of fake marble.
Meanwhile, all the block of marble contained in the other container was real, officers said.
Currently, the price of rhino horn on the black market can be up to $133 per gram, while that of ivory is around $2,100 per kg, they added.
Customs officers have made a report about the serious smuggling and are coordinating with other relevant agencies to investigate the case.
The trade of tusks is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora as well as Vietnamese law, as African ivory is listed in the World’s Red Book, customs officers said.
Many similar tusk smuggling cases have occurred in recent years in Vietnam, which has banned trade in ivory since 1992 to prevent the hunting of the country's dwindling population of elephants, which poachers value highly for their tusks.
Yesterday customs officers at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi seized 49 purported elephant tusk parts and one alleged rhino horn that were shipped from Africa.
The suspicious tusks weighed 95.54kg while the horn weighed 4.76kg, customs officers said, adding that the samples of these items were sent to the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources for testing on Thursday morning.
On April 16, the airport customs also seized 65.42kg of elephant tusks and rhino horns transported from France.
By far the biggest interception of elephant tusks in Vietnam occurred in March 2009 when customs officers in the northern city of Hai Phong seized nearly seven tons of the contraband goods in a container shipped from Tanzania, a country in East Africa.