Vietnamese authorities say they have uncovered more than a ton of elephant tusks that smugglers were attempting to illegally take to China.

Customs official Ly Tran Tuan says the 221 pieces of tusks were discovered on October 23 hidden in rolls of fabric that were being transported on a boat on the Ka Long river bordering the two countries. Tusks are used for ivory jewellery and home decorations.

Tuan said on Monday that a Chinese man who was escorting the boat and the Vietnamese captain were detained by local police for further investigation. Vietnam bans the hunting of its dwindling elephant population. In 2009, authorities confiscated nearly seven tons of elephant tusks smuggled from Tanzania in the country's biggest ivory seizure. Ivory seizures are reported periodically in Vietnam, where again last year, customs officials seized two tonnes of elephant tusks illegally imported from Kenya and destined for China, according to State-controlled media.

The global ivory trade has been banned since 1989 but there has been a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005. China is one of the world's biggest markets for all kinds of ivory, also very popular in Vietnam.

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