A series of undercover operations spanning more than two years has uncovered a web of wildlife trafficking groups in Vietnam.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a UK-based NGO, has released an official report named ‘Exposing the Hydra: The growing role of Vietnamese syndicates in ivory trafficking‘.

It documents the findings of a two-year undercover investigation by EIA agents who successfully infiltrated a number of ivory trafficking groups, The Maritime Executive reported.

According to the report, 56 tons of ivory have been confiscated in Vietnam, with an additional 20 tons taken in other countries said to be linked to Vietnam. The numbers are equivalent to about 11,414 elephants hunted for their ivory.

The syndicates reportedly poach animals in African countries such as Mozambique, South Africa and Nigeria and deliver the animal parts to Vietnam, ITV reported.

In conversations secretly recorded by EIA agents, smugglers boasted about the ease of sourcing ivory and getting it to Vietnam. The report highlights how some syndicates move ivory through Malaysia and Laos before the contraband reaches Vietnam. Dealers either sell it in Vietnam or move it to China for sale.

Ivory goods remain prized trophies among older generations in east and southeast Asian countries.