15 tons of elephant Ivory seized in Malaysia add to staggering annual toll
Malaysian authorities seized a staggering 15 tons of elephant ivory yesterday in Port Klang, just west of Kuala Lumpur, the sixth and by far the largest major seizure involving Malaysia in recent months.
The seizure originated in Mombasa, Kenya and was hidden inside containers marked as “sandstone-made handicraft”. Authorities in Malaysia have valued the shipment at approximately €17.8 million (USD $23.5 million). The shipment was bound for SihanoukVille, Cambodia, a port town 185kms/115 miles southwest of Phnom Penh
Monday’s ivory confiscations are the largest seizure to date in a year that has seen an overwhelming number of seizures. In the first half of 2011 the volume of ivory confiscated surpassed the annual totals of the three previous years. Between August 2009 and June 2011 the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) has recorded nearly four seizures a day.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) salutes the achievement of the Malaysian authorities but warns that ivory trafficking will continue to enrich international criminal syndicates and devastate biodiversity unless arrests, convictions and daunting penalties are applied to everyone associated in the trade.
“Ivory trafficking remains a low-risk high reward activity for international criminal syndicates that also engage in drug and arms trafficking,” said Kelvin Alie, IFAW’s Program Director for Wildlife Trade. “Each piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant. An elephant killed for its ivory has almost certainly been strafed with dozens of bullets from an AK-47 or suffered a long, agonizing death from poisoned food or barbaric, homemade snares and traps.”
IFAW is working with INTERPOL to launch Project WISDOM in 2012 to tackle the horror of ivory trafficking. INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme will coordinate anti-ivory enforcement operations across Africa hopefully culminating in arrests, convictions and a serious blow to the cruelest threat to elephants.
“The operations with INTERPOL we are funding are vital for saving elephants now but ultimately we must have a complete ban on international ivory. It is the only way to stamp out the trade,” continued Alie.
Counting, measuring, recording and developing a comprehensive record of elephant poaching is nearly impossible. The quantities and distances involved render it a Herculean task. Because of this, we are left with anecdotal evidence; stories and accounts which, once combined, give us great insight into what is happening in the global illegal ivory trade and measure the degree of threat faced by elephants.
It is clear that the threat to elephants is grave. According to ETIS there has been, “a steadily increasing trend in levels of illicit ivory trade in 2004 onwards, with an exceptionally sharp upsurge in 2009….seizures of ivory reached record levels in 2009 and that these levels were largely sustained in 2010.”
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Founded in 1969, IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos and video available at www.ifawimages.com.