Malaysia Seizes Half A Ton Of Smuggled Ivory
By Marla Lise | Top News
January 10, 2012
The Malaysian Customs Department in Port Klang seized close to half a ton of ivory destined for Malaysia yesterday, reports TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.
AsianScientist (Jan. 10, 2012) – The Malaysian Customs Department in Port Klang seized close to half a ton of ivory destined for Malaysia yesterday, reports TRAFFIC Southeast Asia. The 492 kg of tusks were individually bubble-wrapped in cardboard boxes and imported from Cape Town, South Africa.
Malaysia was listed as the final destination, making this an unusual development, as Malaysia had simply been a transshipment point in all previous large ivory seizures.
“Although this is a small seizure, many elephants were needlessly killed,” Selangor State Customs Director Dato’ Azis Yacub told reporters at a press conference yesterday. “Our investigations will now focus on why Malaysia is being used as an end destination,” he said.
2011: “Annus horribilis” for African elephants, says TRAFFIC
2011 marked the worst year for the illegal ivory trade. Seizures of ivory volumes over 800 kg in weight are considered large scale ones, and 2011 recorded 13 of these, compared to six in 2010.
About 23 tons of ivory was seized in 2011 in large scale seizures alone – approximately 2,500 African elephants killed for their tusks. Once the records of hundreds of smaller scale seizures come in, the amount of ivory confiscated will escalate.
The ivory trade has been increasing steadily since 2007, with most of the large seizures from Africa originating from Kenyan and Tanzanian ports.
“In 23 years of compiling ivory seizure data for the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), this is the worst year ever for large ivory seizures – 2011 has truly been a horrible year for elephants,” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s Elephant expert.
ETIS is run by TRAFFIC on behalf of the Parties of the CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). It holds the details of 17,000 reported ivory and other elephant product seizures that have taken place worldwide since 1989.
“The escalating large ivory quantities involved in 2011 reflect both a rising demand in Asia and the increasing sophistication of the criminal gangs behind the trafficking. Most illegal shipments of African elephant ivory end up in either China or Thailand,” Milliken said.
Besides yesterday’s seizure, the Malaysian Customs made four other sensational ivory seizures in 2011, collectively weighing a total of some six tons. These represent the largest haul of ivory ever recorded in Malaysia and served to confirm the country as a primary transit country for illegal trade on to end-use markets in China and Thailand.
Once inside Asia, the shipment’s documents are altered so that they do not seem to originate from Africa, said TRAFFIC.
“That’s an indication of the level of sophistication enforcement officers are up against in trying to outwit the criminal masterminds behind this insidious trade. As most large-scale ivory seizures fail to result in any arrests, I fear the criminals are winning,” Milliken said.
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