1,041 elephant tusks seized on Zanzibar Island
The record-setting seizure comes as 27 wildlife law enforcement officials from 11 Southern African countries gather in Gaborone, Botswana this week to undergo a joint IFAW and INTERPOL training session on the prevention of illegal trade in wildlife.
The ivory shipment originated in Dar-es-Salaam and was apparently destined for Malaysia. The tusks were hidden among tins of anchovies, with the smell intended to disguise the presence of the ivory.
“At a certain point you stop saying these seizures are alarming or surprising and accept them as a grim and inevitable reminder that we are losing the war against wildlife trafficking,” said James Isiche, IFAW East Africa Director. “We need a global outcry to spur investment in creating the necessary wildlife law enforcement capacity to take on the international criminal syndicates who benefit from these massacres.”
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) saluted the achievement of the Tanzanian authorities but warned this was just one shipment in a staggering illegal trade which threatens the continued existence of elephants in some range states.
A recent investigation of ivory sales in Guanghzou, China estimated its value at US$750/kg. Assuming an average weight of five kilograms per tusk this seizure represents an estimated value of almost US$4-million. IFAW said the impact on African elephant populations far outweighed the value of the ivory yield from the ongoing slaughter of elephants.
“This seizure makes it clear that the ongoing INTERPOL wildlife enforcement training, which IFAW is supporting in Gabarone is vital to saving elephants – particularly those elephants of the Congo Basin which are most threatened,” said Kelvin Alie, IFAW’s Wildlife Trade Programme Director. “While we gather to discuss combating the ivory trade elephants continue to be killed for their ivory.
“What elephant range states now need is the commitment of the international community to financially support these highly skilled and motivated trainees to be able to meet the task of protecting elephants and stop the legal trade in ivory which facilitates poaching and illegal trade,” Alie concluded.
Thousands of ivory tusks have already been seized in 2011 – Some of the larger seizures include an April 1st seizure when Thai officials discovered 247 tusks hidden in a shipment from Kenya.
Two weeks later Vietnamese officials seized 122 elephant tusks and a day after those Chinese officials uncovered 707 elephant tusks during a routine inspection.
In early May Kenyan authorities uncovered 84 elephant tusks at Nairobi airport.