In a single day, Vietnamese authorities reportedly busted efforts to smuggle roughly 275 pounds worth of rhino horns as well as seven frozen tiger carcasses into its capital city of Hanoi, according to reports from multiple outlets.
Officials discovered the 55 pieces of rhino horn concealed in plaster among cargo at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport earlier this week, and announced news of the haul Sunday, according to Al Jazeera. The shipment originated in the United Arab Emirates, Reuters reports, a country considered a major intersection in the animal trafficking trade. Though Vietnam has outlawed trade in rhino horn, relegating it to the black market, the country remains one of its major consumers, as the mistaken belief that it holds medicinal powers remains common there (and its consumption is a status symbol in some circles).
That same day, police arrested three men after reportedly finding seven frozen tiger carcasses in their vehicle, according to Al Jazeera. State media reported that the men, one of whom was a wildlife trafficking suspect, were transporting the animals from Laos to Hanoi.
Though Vietnam’s attempted to crack down on smuggling, the problem extends well beyond its borders. Earlier this month, the United Nations published a report that categorized how severe the problem of transnational organized crime is in the region, which it concluded is only getting worse. The report found that the black market trafficking of drugs, wildlife, and people that crisscrosses Southeast Asia rakes in tens of billions of dollars annually. One kilogram of rhino horn alone can sell for as much as $60,000, according to Al Jazeera.
This high price tag has led to poaching so vehement that the wild rhino population has dwindled from half a million to as few as 29,000 in the last century, the World Wildlife Fund reports. Last year, the northern white rhino subspecies lost its last living male, and other subspecies could soon follow unless more effective conservation measures are taken.