Today’s seizure of a reported 1,120 ivory tusks in Hong Kong brings to over three tons the amount of illegal elephant ivory, known to have been seized by Chinese authorities since January.
This morning’s seizure was the second in one month in Hong Kong, after customs officials confiscated more than two tonnes of ivory in July - their largest confiscation of ivory since 2010.
"This year is shaping up badly for elephants," said Isabel McCrea, Director of IFAW Australia and New Zealand. "We’ve seen a steady stream of large scale ivory seizures since January. What is concerning is that the two made in Hong Kong in the past four weeks, have bypassed the traditional departure points in Eastern Africa and have arrived from West Africa - two tonnes shipped from Togo last month, and today’s hidden in a shipping container falsely identified as carrying wood from Nigeria.
"There’s no question that traffickers are becoming more devious in their attempts to confound authorities by developing new routes to ship contraband."
Thirteen rhino horns and five leopard skins were also found in this morning’s consignment. In July officials of the Czech Republic made the European Union’s biggest ever seizure of rhino horn when they confiscated 24 White rhino horns and arrested 16 suspects in connection with wildlife trafficking.
"Kudos to the Hong Kong authorities for their determination to put an end to ivory trafficking - their work to interrupt the illegal trade in elephant ivory is very encouraging, but the fact that so much ivory is being intercepted is an indication of how far out of control elephant poaching has become," said Isabel McCrea.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold". Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs. More....