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Exposing the Hydra - IvoryDespite being the focus of numerous investigations and exposés regarding the country’s role in the international illegal wildlife trade, Vietnam continues to be a primary hub for ivory trafficking.

The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has released a report Exposing the Hydra: The growing role of Vietnamese syndicates in ivory trafficking documenting the findings of a two-year undercover investigation. (Download the full report at this hyperlink).

Investigators successfully infiltrated several ivory trafficking syndicates operating in Mozambique, South Africa, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, building a detailed picture of how these criminal organizations are structured, how they cooperate with one another and how they also traffic other endangered species such as rhinos and pangolins.

In contrast to China, which closed its domestic legal ivory market in January and stepped up enforcement against ivory trafficking, the Government of Vietnam has not demonstrated serious commitment to tackling wildlife crime, says the organization. Instead, the past decade has seen Vietnam serve as a prominent transit route for large ivory shipments to China as well as overseeing a growing carving industry and one of the world’s biggest markets for ivory sales.

The report states that since 2009, 56 tons of ivory have been seized in Vietnam and a further 20 tons linked to Vietnam seized in other countries. This is equivalent to ivory sourced from approximately 11,414 elephants.

EIA estimates that since 2015 the ivory traffickers identified during the course of their investigation have been linked to seizures totalling 6.3 tons of ivory and 299 kilograms of rhino horn, including the recent record seizure of 50 rhino horns in Malaysia in August 2018. Between January 2016 and November 2017 there were at least 22 successful shipments of ivory from Africa, with an estimated weight of 19 tons and potential revenue of $14 million.

Source: EIA International and Maritime Executive, 16 September 2018

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With record levels of global ivory seizures in 2013, mostly in ports, a new Interpol report highlights the need for greater information sharing to enable a more proactive and effective law enforcement response against trafficking syndicates.

Large-scale ivory shipments – each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants – point to the involvement of organized crime networks operating across multiple countries. Head of Interpol’s Environmental Security unit, David Higgins, said while there was a global recognition of the problems of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, a more integrated approach was needed for a more effective response.

“Ivory seizures are clearly an important step in stopping this illicit trade, but this is just one part of a much bigger picture,” said Higgins. “If we are to target those individuals behind the killing of thousands of elephants every year, who are making millions at the cost of our wildlife with comparatively little risk, then we must address each and every stage of this criminal activity in a cohesive manner.

The report ‘Elephant Poaching and Ivory Trafficking in East Africa – Assessment for an effective law enforcement response’ was launched at the Canadian High Commissioner’s Residence in Nairobi, Kenya.

While poaching in Kenya has reduced due to more pressure by security agents on poachers, the country is being used as a transit route with the port of Mombasa becoming a favorite for poachers. The ivory is packaged in shipping containers for transport to the port, and interception of the majority of ivory has occurred in maritime ports with the loot hidden in shipment containers usually concealed by other lawful goods.

Uganda though a landlocked country is becoming a transit route for the ivory, mostly from Tanzania. Tanzania was the leading source of illegal ivory in the East African region last year. At the same time, the port of Mombasa accounted for the largest volume of seizures in Africa with a total of over 10 tonnes of illegal ivory intercepted between January and October 2013.

Approximately 30 elephants are killed in Tanzania daily amounting to more than 10,000 animals annually. An estimated 22,000 elephants were killed illegally continent wide in 2012.

Tanzania’s elephant population has continued to plummet in recent years and in Selous Game reserve which boasted the world second largest elephant population at 70,000 elephants in 2006, the numbers have fallen to an estimated 39,000 elephants in 2009 and currently stand at 13,084 elephants.

There is global concern about the problem. The Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, held in London this month, agreed key actions to stamp out the illegal wildlife trade. During the conference, chaired by Foreign Secretary William Hague and attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, world leaders from over forty nations vowed to help save iconic species from the brink of extinction.

The London Declaration contains commitments for practical steps to end the illegal trade in rhino horn, tiger parts and elephant tusks that fuels criminal activity worth over $19 billion each year.

Key states, including Botswana, Chad, China, Gabon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Vietnam, along with the US and Russia, have signed up to actions that will help eradicate the demand for wildlife products, strengthen law enforcement, and support the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by wildlife crime. Continue Reading…

1,500 pieces of tusks seized at the Royal Malaysian Customs were hidden in wooden crates, purpose-built to look like stacks of sawn timber! The following pictures illustrate the Malaysian Customs ivory bust in progress. Pictures courtesy of WWF Singapore (their Facebook Page) – . Also see full report at  http://www.traffic.org/home/2012/12/11/massive-african-ivory-seizure-in-malaysia.html.

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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