Customs officers at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City have confiscated 1.5 kilograms of rhino horn disguised as children’s toys in the luggage of a Vietnamese passenger.
The confiscated horns are from the Diceros bicornis species, often known as black rhinoceros, and have a market value of around VND2 billion (US$89,000).
Three pieces of rhino horn were found hidden inside children’s toy boxes in the luggage of a 20-year-old Vietnamese passenger who landed in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.
The man had flown back to Vietnam from Africa, Tan Son Nhat Airport Customs said on Monday. He has been detained and an investigation is underway.
In accordance with Vietnamese law, the import of rhino horns, as with all animals protected by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is strictly prohibited.
Last November, Vietnamese authorities destroyed nearly 2.2 metric tons of seized elephant ivory and 70 kilograms of rhino horn, estimated to be worth more than $7 million on the black market. It was considered one of the country's biggest efforts to stop the illegal trade of wildlife parts.
Vietnam has become a transit point for buyers of elephant ivory, mostly in China and the U.S., who make jewelry and home ornaments from it, while Vietnam itself is a major consumer of rhino horn.
Since 2013 the Vietnamese government has worked closely with the UK-based Humane Society International (HSI) to reduce demand for rhino horn.