Elephant tusks now sold on social media
VietNamNet Bridge - China, Hong Kong and Thailand are the three biggest elephant tusk consumers in Asia (Underwood et al., 2013), while Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are places where trafficked elephant tusks transit before going to China (Stiles, 2008; Nijman and Shepherd, 2012).


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In November 2016, the government of Vietnam ordered that 2.2 tons of elephant tusks and 70 kilograms of rhino horns be destroyed in an aim to fight trafficking and use of wildlife-made products. 

However, the Vietnamese elephant tusk trafficking market remains busy with the support of social networks.

With 30 million Facebook accounts, Facebook is now the most popular social network in Vietnam, and loose regulations for Facebook users have prompted traffickers to turn the social network into an elephant tusk market. 

A survey by WildAct, a wildlife conservation organization, showed that from mid-2015 to early 2016, about 21,000 products from elephants, including tusks and tail feathers, were offered on social networks.

Of these, the products carved from tusks were the most popular, accounting for 69 percent of elephant tusk-made product items advertised on Facebook.

The organization also found that the majority of the account owners trading products made of elephant tusks were men living in HCMC and Binh Duong.

Below the ads and pictures of products made of elephants’ parts WildAct found 1,171 comments from people likely to use elephant tusks.

After analyzing the information declared by Facebook accounts’ owners, and the comments about advertised products, surveyors concluded that most elephant tusk and tail feathers were bought by married men who had low working skills. 

Civil servants, army officers and managerial officers at agencies and factories accounted for 10 percent of total potential clients. Buddhists in Vietnam, Mongolia, Thailand and Cambodia were also found interacting with elephant tusk trafficking accounts in Vietnam.

Nguyen Trang from WildAct, in an article on thiennhien.net, pointed out that 95 percent of feedback to the ads on elephant-made products raised questions about the prices and the ways to get products. And 2.6 percent showed interest in products and 2.4 percent raised questions about the quality and origin of tusks. 

95 percent of feedback to the ads on elephant-made products raised questions about the prices and the ways to get products. And 2.6 percent showed interest in products and 2.4 percent raised questions about the quality and origin of tusks. 

Meanwhile, there was no comment which showed worries about trafficking and warnings about illegal wildlife trading. 

Vietnamese laws strictly prohibit the exploitation, trafficking, processing and use of elephant-made products for commercial purposes.

However, the country has not had many investigations into trafficking in wildlife products on social networks, leading to successful confiscation and prosecution. 

The most typical case was the confiscation of items and prosecution of Phan Huynh Anh Khoa, 23 years old, who was sentenced to five years in prison and fined VND50 million in 2015. 

Right after the survey was released, 45 other elephant tusk accounts were discovered with 35,000 products offered.


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Thanh Lich

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