Thai­land cus­toms of­fi­cials make new three-tonne ivory seizure

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

More than three tonnes of ele­phant ivory have been found at a Thai port stashed in a con­tainer shipped from Kenya, cus­toms said Mon­day, the sec­ond huge haul of tusks from Africa in less than a week.

The dis­cov­ery, which would be worth mil­lions of U.S. dol­lars on the black mar­ket, was des­tined for Laos where the il­le­gal ivory trade flour­ishes.

Some 511 pieces of ivory, weigh­ing over three tonnes, were found on April 25 in a con­tainer “marked as tea leaves trans­ported from Mom­basa, Kenya, and on to Laos,” Thai cus­toms said in a state­ment.

Scores of whole tusks — some nearly two me­ters long — were among the pieces seized.

A record four tonnes of African ele­phant ivory was seized at Bangkok’s main port on April 20, in a con­tainer that ar­rived from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo and was also des­tined for Laos.

Once in neigh­bor­ing Laos, au­thor­i­ties be­lieve the ivory would likely be sold on to buy­ers from main­land China, Viet­nam or back into Thai­land, coun­tries where ivory or­na­ments are cov­eted de­spite fears the trade is push­ing wild ele­phants to ex­tinc­tion.

Laos “is in­creas­ingly be­ing used as a ma­jor tran­sit point for such large vol­umes of il­licit ivory and other wildlife prod­ucts,” Chris Shep­herd of con­ser­va­tion group TRAF­FIC told AFP.

“The in­crease in large-scale seizures is of great con­cern. Whether the ivory is com­ing from freshly killed ele­phants, or from stock­piles of ivory in Africa, needs to be in­ves­ti­gated,” he added.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists say poach­ing and con­flict has de­stroyed large num­bers of African ele­phants in the wild, prompt­ing ex­perts to warn the species could be wiped out within decades.

Thai­land has launched a crack- down on the ivory trade amid mount­ing in­ter­na­tional pres­sure.

Global reg­u­la­tor Con­ven­tion on In­ter­na­tional Trade in En­dan­gered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has threat­ened an in­ter­na­tional ban on Thai­land’s en­tire wildlife busi­ness if it fails to curb the trade in tusks on its soil.

Un­der Thai law, reg­is­tered ivory from do­mes­ti­cated Thai ele­phants can be sold. But ex­perts say that loop­hole al­lows crim­i­nal gangs to laun­der poached African ivory through the king­dom.

Thai­land’s fish­ing in­dus­try is also un­der scru­tiny for ex­ploita­tion of mi­grant work­ers and over­fish­ing.

Last week the Euro­pean Union threat­ened to ban Thai fish im­ports un­less the king­dom does more to halt il­le­gal fish­ing.

Thai­land is the world’s third largest seafood pro­ducer and an EU ban could cost it around US$1 bil­lion (NT$30.58 bil­lion) an­nu­ally.

AP

A Thai Cus­toms Depart­ment of­fi­cial ar­ranges seized ele­phant tusks to be dis­played at their head­quar­ters in Bangkok, Thai­land on Mon­day, April 27.

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