Commentary by Paula Kahumbu
Royal Malaysian Customs have just announced the seizure of 24 tons of ivory in Port Klang. This is the largest-ever seizure of ivory in transit through the country. The 1,500 pieces of ivory came from over 750 elephants and were exported from Togo, a tiny west African country that has fewer than 200 elephants. The ivory was hidden in containers containing wooden crates that were built to look like stacks of sawn timber. The two crates were shipped from the port of Lomé in Togo, and were going to China via Algeria, Spain and Malaysia. Richard Leakey, the former Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who set Kenya’s ivory stockpile alight in 1989, responded to the announcement.
“We have been warning that the ivory trade is out of control for some years now. This seizure is equal in size to all of the ivory seized in 2011 from Africa and it represents the tip of the iceberg. Unless African governments and donors respond, there will be no elephants left”.
Bonadventure Ebayi, CEO of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force the African Interpol for wildlife, echoed Leakey’s statement, He says he is not at all surprised with this seizure, and he predicts many more to come. Togo has virtually no law enforcement to speak of—in trafficking circles it is considered something of a free port. It is a country through which timber from other central African countries is exported by both China and Malaysia. The ivory, he believes, came from several central African countries. More....