EU Must React as Seven Tonnes of Ivory Seized in a Few Weeks
It has been a bloody few weeks for elephants, following the seizure of nearly seven tonnes of ivory since the end of September in Kenya, Vietnam and Hong Kong.
Today, Kenya officials said they had yesterday made a second bust of two tonnes of ivory in under a week. On Friday, Kenyan authorities found ivory weighing two tonnes, packed into a container holding bags of sesame seeds. The container had arrived at Mombasa Port from Uganda, and was to be shipped to Turkey.
A further two tonnes of ivory was found yesterday, disguised in a similar manner and also bound for Turkey.
In Vietnam, officials said today they too had seized nearly two tonnes of ivory tusks last Friday; the tusks were found concealed in a container shipped from Malaysia, and were en route to China. According to reports the container had been declared as carrying sea shells.
Also last week, Hong Kong said it had seized 189 ivory tusks weighting 769 kgs in an “intelligence based” operation in late September. The ivory was shipped from Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, in containers declared as holding “soya”.
“Seven tonnes of ivory in just a few weeks shows that the security of elephants is spiraling out of control,” said Adrian Hiel, IFAW EU Communications Manager (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org).
“Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, worth several billion euro annually, which is a huge incentive for criminals to become ever more clever and devious in their methods.
“The EU must step up the fight to save elephants. Developing countries do not have the resources to combat the organized criminals involved in the trade but the EU is in a position to help those countries develop the tools and expertise they need,” said Hiel.
“IFAW commends law enforcement authorities in Vietnam for intercepting last week’s haul of ivory,” said Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW.
“Vietnam is an important consumer of illegal wildlife products, and a conduit for ivory to China, so the work of local law officers is key to interrupting the trade. Worldwide, the fact that so much ivory is being confiscated is both encouraging and disheartening because it is an indication of how far out of control poaching of elephants has become,” said Ge Gabriel.
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.
“In 2011, it was thought that between 25,000 and 50,000 elephants lost their lives to poachers, and all for their ivory which is used to make trinkets that no one needs,” said Hiel.
IFAW is a Commitment Maker of the US$80-million Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Commitment to Action to stop the slaughter of Africa’s elephants for their ivory. The initiative will support national governments to scale up anti-poaching enforcement at 50 priority elephant sites. Additionally, anti-trafficking efforts will be strengthened intelligence networks and seeking increased penalties for violations. New demand reduction efforts will also be implemented in key markets.
In addition to uniting national leaders, concerned groups and citizens, the commitment will focus on attention on the national and global security implications of wildlife trafficking. As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$7-10-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.
Extremist groups like the Lord’s Resistance Army, Janjaweed and al-Shabaab (responsible for last month’s Nairobi shopping centre massacre) also poach ivory to fund terror operations.
As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.
Operation Wendi included Côte d’Ivoire among other countries in West Africa where IFAW and Interpol teamed up with local law enforcement authorities to target poachers and traffickers. Ahead of the operation a training hosted by Côte d’Ivoire and sponsored by IFAW brought together law enforcement officers from participating countries to learn the latest search and seizure techniques and allow them to exchange information and expertise.
Subsequent law enforcement activities yielded the confiscation of substantial amounts of ivory, other wildlife products, weapons, live animals and cash.