HANOI: Vietnam has sentenced a man to 12 years in jail for smuggling rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory from Angola, said a wildlife protection group, adding that strict penalties were a key deterrent.
The Southeast Asian nation is a transport hub for illegal wildlife in Asia, as well as being a significant consumer.
Ninh Ba Dien, 36, was hired by an anonymous person to deliver two packages of goods containing nearly 12kg of rhino horns and 5kg of elephant ivory from the African country, according to Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV).
One of the packages was confiscated while Dien transited in Qatar, and he was then detained at Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport in April.
He was sentenced by the Hanoi People’s Court yesterday.
Vietnam and China remain lucrative markets for elephant tusks, pangolins, tiger parts, and rhinoceros horns, frequently used in traditional medicine across parts of Asia despite a lack of peer-reviewed scientific evidence that they have any medicinal properties.
Although the trade is illegal, environmentalists say the law is not always enforced.
However, ENV’s vice-director Bui Thi Ha said the organisation had recently “been very pleased to see many strict penalties applied by the Hanoi People’s Court to wildlife offenders”.
“Wildlife traffickers will only be deterred by increasing the legal risks associated with the illegal wildlife trade,” she added.
More than 60 tonnes of elephant ivory, pangolin scales, and rhinoceros horns have been seized at major Vietnamese shipping ports since 2018, according to a 2021 report by ENV.
In February, a Vietnamese court jailed a man for 13 years for trafficking nearly 10 tonnes of rhinoceros horns, pangolin scales, and other banned wildlife products from Africa.
In 2021, a man who smuggled nearly 130kg of rhinoceros horns from Dubai to Vietnam was sentenced to 14 years in jail, the longest sentence recorded in the country for a wildlife trafficking conviction.