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Asia

Vietnamese government cracks down on ivory trade ahead of global conference

Vietnam has destroyed seized ivory and rhino horn, wildlife products derived from species threatened with extinction. The public display of destruction comes ahead of a global conference to combat the illicit trade.

Vietnamese authorities destroyed more than 2,200 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of seized elephant ivory and rhino horns Saturday, sending a message ahead of a key international conference that they want illegal wildlife trafficking stopped.

"The government is committed to combating the illegal wildlife trade and another message is that the government and Vietnamese people are not allowed to use the wildlife products that come from illegal trade," said Vuong Tien Manh, deputy director of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The horns were crushed and then burned on the outskirts of Hanoi, with Vietnam joining 20 other nations in the destruction of seized wildlife products. Rapacious appetites for horns and tusks in parts of Asia have affected elephant and rhino populations in much of Africa, where poaching is rampant.

Hub for illegal trade

Next week's CITES conference will be held in the northern Vietnamese city of Hanoi. It will be attended by officials and experts including Britain's Prince William, a vocal critic of the illegal wildlife trade. 

The southeast Asian country is one of the world's major transit points and consumers of trafficked ivory and rhino horns. The seized cache - estimated to be worth more than $7 million (7.6 million euros) on the black market - burnt on Saturday came from some 330 African elephants and 23 rhinos that were slaughtered by poachers. Ivory is used to make jewelry and home decorations, and rhino horns are widely believed in some circles to have cancer-curing properties.

Official carrying ivory (Getty Images/AFP//Hoang Dinh Nam)

Saturday's burning was the country's first mass destruction of seized horns and tusks

The African elephant is facing an unprecedented poaching and trafficking threat. An estimated 100,000 elephants were killed illegally from 2010 to 2012 to meet the global demand for ivory, according to Humane Society International, an international animal protection group. Poachers slaughtered more than 6,000 rhinos across Africa in the last decade; in South Africa, 13 rhinos were poached in 2007, but there has been a dramatic increase since then, and more than 1,300 were poached in 2015 alone, the group said.

jar/tj (AFP, AP)

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