Second Giant Ivory Bust in Hong Kong

©IFAW - Archive photo
Friday, November 16, 2012
Cape Town, South Africa

Today’s giant 1,3 tonne ivory seizure in Hong Kong raises the tally of contraband ivory confiscated in the Chinese city to over five tonnes – in less than four weeks.

On 20 October Hong Kong officials seized a record smashing 3,81 tonnes of ivory, the largest worldwide in two years. The ivory was shipped from Kenya and Tanzania.

“IFAW applauds the Chinese authorities for their interception of the ivory, but we need to stop ivory from ever reaching the market by stopping demand in China and preventing elephants from being killed. Range states need training, equipment and intelligence to protect their elephants while they are still in the wild,” said Kelvin Alie, Director for the Wildlife Crime and Consumer Awareness Programme of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW- www.ifaw.org).

Today’s seizure of 569 pieces of ivory tusks, with an estimated value of US1,25-million, was concealed in a shipping container that had arrived from Tanzania. It brings to four the number of large sized seizures of illegal ivory in the past four weeks - two in Hong Kong, 210 tusks in Tanzania and just this week, 215 tusks intercepted in Dubai. All the ivory was in transit from Kenya and Tanzania.

Yesterday IFAW raised concerns that East Africa’s was becoming a clearing house for the bloody illegal ivory trade. “Kenyan law enforcement authorities have to stamp out poaching and work with other African elephant range states to seal off ivory trafficking routes,” said James Isiche, IFAW Regional Director Eastern Africa.
Jason Bell, Director of IFAW’s Elephant Programme said the last 24 months have been among the most deadly ever for elephants.

“In 2011, in total, authorities seized close to 24,3 tonnes (27 tons) of illegal ivory – the biggest amount in 23 years - and, in the first quarter of 2012, poachers in Cameroon slaughtered an estimated 650 elephants for their ivory,” said Bell.

“It is clear that elephants are under more threat today, than they have been in a long time”.

Meanwhile IFAW has warned that the annual poaching season run by professional poachers in Central Africa may start in the coming days or weeks. Taking advantage of dry season conditions poachers from countries such as Sudan target poorly secured elephant populations across the region. The ivory is smuggled out of West and Central Africa for markets in Asia and Europe, and the money it raises funds regional conflicts.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory China purchased from the stockpile sale from southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs. IFAW says an estimated 25,000-50,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2011.

Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia Regional Director for IFAW, said China’s fast growing human population, economy and consumer driven economy, was placing intense pressure on elephant populations.

“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.”

Few animals are as threatened by wildlife trafficking as elephants. Earlier this year IFAW raised the alarm as hundreds of elephants were slaughtered in Cameroon. A recent report from IFAW makes it clear that Chinese demand, and demand in other Asian countries, is largely to blame.

This is part of a worldwide capacity building initiative by IFAW which trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,300 governmental representatives at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006.

Ends

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW 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.

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
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