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Vietnam seizes tons of elephant tusks 'originating from South Africa'

Vietnamese authorities have seized nearly three tons of illegal ivory hidden among boxes of fruit. The Southeast Asian country has increased efforts to tackle wildlife smuggling trade.

Police seized a total of 2,748 kilograms (6,058 pounds) of elephant tusks in the province of Thanh Hoa.

The ivory was hidden inside cartons of fruit which were being transported on the back of a truck on its way to Hanoi, the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported Sunday.

Nguyen Truong Son, the driver of the truck, was detained by police. He claimed he was unaware of what he was transporting.

"This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province," the newspaper article said.

Read: Vietnamese government cracks down on ivory trade ahead of global conference

State media reported that the ivory originated from South Africa.

Ivory can be sold in Vietnamese markets for $770 - $1,200 (675 -1,052 euros) per kilogram (2.2 pounds). Smugglers also use Vietnam to transport tusks to China where ivory is sold at even higher rates.

The global ivory trade has been banned since 1989 after the number of African elephants dwindled from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Read: Elephant poaching is losing Africa millions of tourist dollars

Vietnam outlawed ivory trade in 1992, but the country remains a top market for ivory products.

In October last year, Vietnamese authorities captured about 3.5 tons of illegal ivory in Ho Chi Minh City.

Last week, Hong Kong seized 7.2 tons of ivory, the largest haul in the city in decades.

Read: China ivory ban brings hope for elephants

Watch video 01:37

China clamps down on ivory trade

shs/jlw (AFP, dpa)

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