Archives For elephant tusks

Vietnam-Ivory

Vietnamese authorities have seized nearly three tonnes of ivory hidden among boxes of fruit, officials said on Sunday, the latest haul to spotlight the country’s key role in the global wildlife smuggling trade.

Police in the central province of Thanh Hoa found 2.7 tonnes of tusks inside cartons on the back of a truck that was on its way to Hanoi, according to their website.

“This is the largest seizure of smuggled ivory ever in Thanh Hoa province,” the report said.State media said the elephant tusks originated from South Africa.

The truck driver claimed he was unaware of what he was transporting, according to a report in state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper.

The global trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after populations of the African giants dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

There are now believed to be some 415,000, with 30,000 illegally killed each year. Prices for a kilogramme of ivory can reach as high as US$1,100 (Dh4,040).

Vietnam outlawed the ivory trade in 1992 but the country remains a top market for ivory products prized locally for decorative purposes, or in traditional medicine despite having no proven medicinal qualities.

Weak law enforcement in the communist country has allowed a black market to flourish, and Vietnam is also a busy thoroughfare for tusks trafficked from Africa destined for other parts of Asia, mainly China.

Last October, Vietnam customs authorities discovered about 3.5 tonnes of elephant tusks at Cat Lai port in Ho Chi Minh city, all in crates of wood, including a hefty two-tonne haul packed into a single shipment.

In 2015, 2.2 tonnes of tusks, originating from Mozambique, were discovered and seized northern Hai Phong port.

And last week authorities in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tonnes of ivory, the largest haul in the city for three decades.

While low level couriers are sometimes arrested across Asia very few wildlife trafficking kingpins are brought to justice. Source: The National

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Customs officers in Hong Kong seized 7.2 tons of ivory from a shipping container arriving from Malaysia on July 4.

The seizure was made at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound, and once its weight is confirmed, the haul could become a record seizure – the largest ever recorded in the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database – narrowly surpassing the 7.138 tons seized in Singapore in 2002.

According to a government media release, the consignment was declared as “frozen fish” and the tusks hidden beneath frozen fish cartons.

The massive seizure underlines both Malaysia’s and Hong Kong’s role as key smuggling hubs in the international trafficking of ivory. Three people – a man and two women were arrested in connection with the seizure.

The ETIS database is managed by the NGO TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). It contains tens of thousands of elephant-product seizure records dating back to 1989.

Under CITES guidelines, any seizure of 500kg or more is considered indicative of the involvement of organized crime. All parties making such large-scale seizures are obliged to examine them forensically as part of follow-up investigations.

Dr Yannick Kuehl, TRAFFIC’s Regional Director for East Asia, said, “No doubt Hong Kong’s geographic location coupled with the currently relatively lenient penalties in place for anyone convicted of wildlife crime are reasons behind the shipment coming through the port. The case for increasing penalties has never been stronger.”

Hong Kong is currently reviewing its legislation regarding wildlife crime and the Legislative Council is currently debating plans to phase out the territory’s domestic ivory trade over the next five years, a timescale that is out of step with neighboring mainland China which intends to end its domestic ivory trade by the end of 2017. Source: Maritime Executive/TRAFFIC/HongKong Government – Photo’s: Alex Hofford/WildAid.

Reserach by the University of Washington reveals a dramatic decline in elephant populations in the 1980s prompted the international community to ban ivory trading at the end of the decade. But more than a few loopholes remained, including the ability to import ivory to the US as hunting trophies, or if it was sourced from an animal that died of natural causes. But perhaps the most easily exploited was that which allowed the sale of ivory acquired before 1976, which inspired traders to pass off their goods as antiques for profit. Scientists have now used a form of carbon dating to determine the real age of ivory samples, with an early study revealing more than 90 percent of seized shipments came from animals that died within three years prior.

Humans tested a whole lot of nuclear bombs in the 1950s and 1960s. One of the upshots of this was the doubling of radioactive isotope carbon-14 in the atmosphere, which is in turn absorbed by plants. Because animals (and humans) eat plants, the isotope is passed onto our tissues, and because the concentration of carbon-14 is always declining, scientists can use the isotopic signatures of things like bones or tusks to gauge the age of the material.

This phenomenon, known as a “bomb carbon” signature, has been used to to estimate the age of human remains, trace cocaine trails through the Americas and identify fake whiskey, and now scientists have applied it to a stockpile of illegal ivory shipments seized between 2002 and 2014.

Samuel Wasser of the University of Washington, together with scientists from the University of Utah, studied a total of 231 ivory samples to find only a single tusk from an elephant that had died more than six years before landing in the hands of authorities. More than 90 percent of the elephants from whom the ivory came had died less than three years prior. All of which suggests that not a whole lot of old ivory is being shipped out of Africa.

“This work provides for the first time actionable intelligence on how long it’s taking illegal ivory to reach the marketplace,” says Lesley Chesson, study’s co-author. “The answer: Not long at all, which suggests there are very well developed and large networks for moving ivory across Africa and out of the continent.” The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Singapore on Monday crushed and burnt almost eight tonnes of ivory confiscated over two years to try to deter smugglers as activists called for tighter enforcement.

Over 2,700 elephant tusks weighing 7.9 tonnes were fed into an industrial rock crusher before incineration.

It was the fist time seized ivory had been destroyed in Singapore, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said in a statement. Previous hauls were returned to the originating country, donated to museums or kept for education.

The tusks, estimated to be worth Sg$13 million ($9.6 million), were seized on four separate occasions between January 2014 and December 2015. In May 2015 some 2,000 tusks were found hidden in a shipment of tea leaves from Kenya.

“The public destruction of ivory sends a strong message that Singapore condemns illegal wildlife trade. By crushing the ivory, we ensure it does not re-enter the ivory market,” said Desmond Lee, a senior minister of state in the interior and national development ministry.

Singapore can do more to enforce strict anti-trafficking laws, said WWF-Singapore communications director Kim Stengert.

“There are illegal wildlife shipments caught in other ports after they came through Singapore. So we definitely need to step up efforts to enforce the strict rules,” he said.

The ivory trade has been banned since 1989 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, of which Singapore is a signatory. Source: AFP News

Vietnam Custom ivory seizureCustoms officers in central Vietnam have seized a tonne of ivory and four tonnes of the scaly hide of the pangolin, according to authorities today.

Officials found the contraband on Tuesday inside a shipping container labelled as carrying red beans from Malaysia that arrived at the central port city of Da Nang on Aug 10.

“This is the largest amount of ivory and pangolin smuggling we have discovered in Da Nang,” Dang Van Toan, the port’s head of customs, told the German Press Agency.

The pangolin is an endangered type of armoured anteater found in parts of Asia and Africa. The flesh is sold as an exclusive, but illegal, meat, and the hide is used for traditional medicine and fashion.

The weight of the hides found this week corresponds to around 4,000 individuals, Le Xuan Canh, former head of the Institute of Ecology and Biological Resources, told DPA. Tuesday’s haul brings to nearly eight tonnes the total of tusks, horns and hide from endangered species impounded over the past two weeks in Da Nang.

Last Friday the port’s customs officers seized more than two tonnes of elephant tusks. Eight days earlier they confiscated nearly a tonne of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns, authorities said.

The three shipments were posted to two local companies, which have denied any knowledge of the smuggling, said Pham Van Thieng, deputy head of the central region’s anti-smuggling team.

Trafficking of endangered species and their parts violates international law. Like elephant ivory and rhino horn, pangolin is considered a sign of status among some of Vietnam’s wealthy elite.

Vietnam Ivory Seizure

Customs officers in Vietnam seized more than two tons of elephant tusks, eight days after confiscating an ivory shipment weighing nearly a ton, authorities said. Picture: Pornchai Kittiwongsakul

Customs officers in Vietnam seized more than two tons of elephant tusks, eight days after confiscating an ivory shipment weighing nearly a ton, authorities said on Monday.

The estimated 4.4 million dollars worth of ivory was disguised as logs and hidden within a shipment of timber from Nigeria.

The cargo was posted to the same company listed as the receiver for nearly a ton of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horn from Mozambique that was discovered on August 13, said Ho Xuan Tam, Da Nang Customs Department spokesman.

Company officials have denied wrongdoing.

The poaching of elephants and rhinoceros and the trafficking of their tusks and horns are outlawed under international efforts to protect endangered species. But the illicit trade from Africa to Asia has grown with rising prosperity creating demand in Vietnam and China.

While elephant ivory is valued for its aesthetic appeal, folk superstitions prize rhino horn for its supposed medicinal and aphrodisiac qualities.

A single gram of ground rhino horn possesses a street value of 133 dollars. Rhino killings reached a record 1 215 last year, 10 times the number killed in 2009, according to the conservation group WildAid. Source: IOL

ivory2-634x330Chinese authorities destroyed more than half a tonne of confiscated ivory in Beijing here the other day. The public event, organised by the Chinese State Forestry Administration and the Customs Department, is set to display the country’s determination to ‘further protect wild animals’, according to the People’s Daily Online.

A whopping 662kg (1,460lb) of illegal ivory and ivory products were ground into powder as part of the central government’s crackdown on the illegal trade. The destroyed ivory items include thousands of ornaments, jewellery and fine art pieces. Whole elephant tusks were carved into the images of Buddhas, goddesses or Chinese landscapes.

Members of the media and diplomats were invited to attend the public destruction, which took place at Beijing Wild Animals Rescue Centre, as Chinese authorities hope to rid the country’s reputation of a global trading hub for illegal elephant tusks.

According to the country’s Forestry Administration, raw tusks sell for at least 41,667 Yuan (£4,400) per kilogram, making the total value of this destruction around £3 million. Source: Customs Today

 

Malaysian Customs officers uncovered illegal ivory concealed within secret compartments in a shipment. (Getty Images)

Malaysian Customs officers uncovered illegal ivory concealed within secret compartments in a shipment. (Getty Images)

The Royal Malaysian Customs has received congratulatory messages from South Africa and the World Customs Organisation after thwarting one of the biggest ivory smuggling operations in recent memory. On Monday, Selangor Customs had seized 24 tonnes of elephant tusks and ivory worth US$20 million (RM60 million) in Port Klang from a China-bound ship that is believed to have sailed from Togo.

It is estimated that 750 elephants were killed to produce the quantum of tusks and ivory that was seized. To date, this is the biggest seizure of its kind in Malaysia. Confirming the seizure, Selangor Customs corporate communications chief Mohd Zhafri Johari explained:  “In the China market, ivory could fetch a price of approximately US$25,000 per kilogramme”.

Those arrested will be charged in court under Section 133(1)(a) of the Customs Act 1967 for false declaration and under the Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. This international treaty was drawn up in 1973 to protect wildlife against over-exploitation and to prevent international profiteering which involved threatening of species.

Zhafri also noted that the smuggling of ivory through Port Klang was a rare occurrence prior to 2011. Since then, however, customs have made at least three major seizures. The seized ivory is now considered government property and will be destroyed upon completion of investigation and prosecution of the suspected parties. The 1,500-odd tusks were found in two containers. Although shipping documents listed the containers’ final destination as Port Klang, customs intelligence said the containers were planned to be sent to China. Source: Thesundaily.com