An old photo depicting ivory tusks poached from elephants. Photo: iStock.
An old photo depicting ivory tusks poached from elephants. Photo: iStock.

A new report published by TRAFFIC, a non-governmental organization that monitors the wildlife trade, says illegally obtained ivory goods are widely available in stores and online in Vietnam.

Published with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), “From Tusk to Trinket: Persistent Illegal Ivory Markets in Vietnam” was based on surveys in 852 retail stores in 13 locations as well as coverage of 60 different sellers on 17 online marketplace platforms, Viet Nam News reported.

The report revealed that sellers are often in transition phases in their business operations. According to the study, 43% of the outlets had either only began selling ivory, stopped selling ivory or simply closed while the study was still being conducted. A total of 86% of online sellers showed the same signs of transition.

Physical retailers were found to be looking to expand into the online market.

The study observed that online sellers were linked to physical outlets, and that physical outlets also put their wares on social-media platforms and e-commerce websites.

Tourists from China are a prominent market for ivory. Multiple sellers pointed to Chinese nationals as significant buyers, and prices were often quoted in yuan as well as US dollars.

Sellers often claimed their ivory had originated in Vietnam, which seems suspicious given the large volumes of African ivory being seized in the country. Another important variable to consider is the fact that there are fewer than 100 wild Asian elephants left in the country.

Sarah Ferguson, the director of TRAFFIC in Vietnam, said the fact that the ivory trade is illegal in Vietnam, it has not proved to be much of a deterrent. She also said law enforcement must catch up with the trend or else the illegal ivory trade in Vietnam will continue to be one of the biggest in the world.

The report offered a number of viable methods to combat the ivory trade, including closing legal loopholes, funding and boosting enforcement, and reducing ivory demand and restricting its availability.