By Baradan Kuppusamy
A distance of nearly 9,000 kilometres separates Malaysia from Africa, but that hasn't stopped the Southeast Asian nation from becoming a key staging post in the illegal trade of ivory from Africa to China.
"Between June 2011 and March this year, we managed to seize over 10 cases of smuggled ivory," Khazali Ahmad, director-general of the Malaysian customs department, told IPS.
Close to 50 tonnes of elephant tusk, for which 1,500 elephants would have been killed in Africa, have been recovered in the country since June 2011.
The biggest such haul took place in September of that year, when 695 elephant tusks weighing close to two tonnes were seized in Port Kelang, one of Malaysia's busiest container ports, 38 km southwest of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Two other seizures in January this year from the ports in the northern state of Penang and the southern state of Johore yielded 1.4 tonnes and 492 kg of ivory respectively.
The tusks come hidden under a variety of shipments, be it crates of salted fish, sawn timber or even peanuts. Marked as 'Export to Malaysia', local agents, knowingly or unknowingly, declare that the cargo is bound onward to China, making it difficult for the authorities to trace the eventual recipient there. The caches are also accompanied by multiple documents, obfuscating the trail even further.
"All the ivory comes from Africa and is headed towards China," said Ahmad. More....