Is New Zealand a new destination for illegal ivory trade?

If you thought that the illegal ivory trade was something that happened in far away places in Africa and Asia, then the news of a raid in Auckland, New Zealand, should serve as a timely reminder that this cruel trade is a global phenomenon.

Twenty five items believed to be elephant ivory, and the shell of a Hawksbill Turtle, were seized from an Auckland address, following the interception of two parcels at the Auckland Mail Centre. Forensic testing confirmed that the parcels contained items carved from African elephant tusks. They were posted from Portugal and England.

Congratulations to the New Zealand Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG), a multi agency enforcement team, for this successful bust. The team worked in tandem with their counterparts in theUK to track down the smugglers. This kind of cross-border coordination is exactly what is required to tackle the complexity of the global illegal ivory trade.

As my colleague, Adrian, explained in a previous post, 2011 is shaping up to be a deadly year, with nearly 5,000 tusks intercepted in large-scale seizures so far. Of course, these seizures represent just a fraction of the actual illegal trade, and just a fraction of the elephants being brutally slaughtered to supply nothing more than vanity and status symbols.

That’s why we need a global response to this outrage. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is encouraging people worldwide, including our supporters here in the Oceania region, to join our elephant march and send a message to global leaders that ivory trade has to end.

Of course, we also need attitudes to ivory to change across the world. That’s why we’re working with young people through IFAW’s Animal Action Week, backed by Hollywood actor and activist, Leonardo DiCaprio, to raise awareness about the plight facing elephants.  There are heaps of fun activities and educational materials available, so youngsters can join in and find out more about elephants and how to help protect them.

-- MC

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