Ivory Seizure in Hong Kong

Ivory Seizure in Hong Kong
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Cape Town, South Africa

Hong Kong has seized 189 ivory tusks, weighing 769 kgs, officials there have announced.

The ivory was shipped from Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, in containers declared as holding “soya” said local officials and was part of an “intelligence based” operation in late September. No arrests have been made.

“This year is ending badly for elephants,” said Kelvin Alie, Director of IFAW’s Wildlife Crime Programme (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org). “We’ve seen a steady stream of large scale ivory seizures since January. It is of concern that the most recent seizures in Hong Kong have bypassed the traditional departure points in Eastern Africa and have arrived from West Africa – from Togo, Nigeria and now Côte d’Ivoire.

“There’s no question that traffickers are becoming more devious in their attempts to confound authorities by developing new routes to ship contraband.”

Today’s announcement comes just two months after a seizure of 1,000 elephant tusks shipped from Nigeria, and which also included rhino horns and leopard skins.

Tomorrow (Friday 04 October) marks a global day of action called “International March for Elephants” which sees activists in cities around the world marching to protest against elephant poaching. At least 35,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2012.

“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 Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW.

“Biologically, elephants simply cannot support an economic model of supply and demand. No wildlife can sustain this type of commercial exploitation, let alone a long-living, slow growing, slow breeding species like the elephant,” said Ge Gabriel.

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), poaching ivory to fund terror operations.

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.

“The best chance we have to stop illegal wildlife trade is a real commitment by the international community to take action,” said Alie.

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.

Ends

A new IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade,, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people.

The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW’s digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade..

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

IFAW is working to help protect elephants on the ground by supporting anti-poaching patrol trainings, working with Interpol to boost enforcement to fight wildlife trafficking and reducing demand for ivory through consumer awareness campaigns. IFAW is supporting the Indian Government in presenting the historic E50:50 Elephant Congress which will take place in New Delhi in November 2013, bringing together for the first time ministers from the 50 elephant range countries to address the conservation and welfare needs of elephants worldwide for the next 50 years.
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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia