Police in Zanzibar have seized 1,041 elephant tusks hidden in a shipment heading for Malaysia, according to media reports. The consignment was reported to have been offloaded at Zanzibar two weeks previously, where it arrived from Dar Es Salaam, and had been stored near Stone Town. Two local transport agents are being held by police for further questioning.
The ivory was hidden in a container of anchovies, where the strong smell would have discouraged an investigation of its contents. A similar modus operandi was used last year, when authorities in Hong Kong seized 384 elephant tusks in September, packed into two containers shipped from Zanzibar and labelled as dried fish.
Following that seizure, in discussions with the Tanzanian government, TRAFFIC called for better law enforcement focus on the port of Zanzibar.
"TRAFFIC applauds the Tanzanian officials for apprehending this latest seizure and we are delighted they are zeroing in on the port of Zanzibar as a major conduit for contraband wildlife products," said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC's Elephant & Rhino Programme Co-ordinator.
Milliken manages the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), the illegal ivory trade monitoring system that TRAFFIC runs on behalf of Parties to CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). ETIS holds the details of nearly 17,000 reported ivory and other elephant product seizures that have taken place anywhere in the world since 1989.
Tanzania a major link on ivory smuggling chain
According to the ETIS data, Tanzania has been implicated in more large flows of ivory than any other country-a total of 21 of the 83 largest (>800 kg) ivory seizures to date. This is the first large-scale seizure that Tanzania has made itself since 2007 and only the second large seizure since 2002, although many smaller seizures have been made during this period.
Between 1989 and 2002, Tanzania made 10 large seizures (some 18.7 tonnes of ivory) before they were illegally exported, and no other large seizures were made elsewhere in the world during this period that implicated Tanzania, indicating a very good law enforcement record for the country.
But from 2003 through 2010, 10 further large seizures originating from Tanzania (totalling 28.6 tonnes) were made in Asia (Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan and Viet Nam), and only one large seizure (890 kg) was made inside Tanzania. More....