The South Africans are involved in enforcement against the rhino trade and were to meet their Vietnamese counterparts, said Traffic, the British-based global wildlife trade monitoring network, which organised the trip.

The two nations aim to increase collaborative law enforcement, it said.

"Vietnam has been increasingly implicated as a main driver of the illegal rhino horn trade in Asia, and a major trade route has emerged connecting illegally killed rhinos in South Africa with consumers in Vietnam," Traffic said in a press release.

While Asian rhinos have likely been eliminated in Vietnam, partly because of poaching for their horns, there are still important wild rhino populations in Africa, especially South Africa, Traffic said.

"It's vitally important to scale up Africa's law enforcement efforts and link with Asia in the fight to save the world's rhinos", Tom Milliken, regional director for Traffic in East and Southern Africa, said in the statement.

"We'll only win this war if both sides align against the criminal syndicates behind this trade."

Vietnamese media reported earlier this year that police seized about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of ivory near the border with China, after recovering hundreds of kilograms last year. Much of it was tusks illegally imported from Kenya.

There is a booming black market in African ivory linked to Asian crime syndicates, experts and delegates said early this year at a meeting in Doha of the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Traffic says rhino horns are sold in Vietnamese traditional medicine shops, hospitals and online. Elsewhere in Asia the horns are also believed to cure a range of ailments, the group said.

Agence France Presse - October 20, 2010