Thai officials seize 4 tonnes of smuggled ivory

Thai officials seize 4 tonnes of smuggled ivory
Tuesday, 21 April, 2015
Brussels, Belgium

More than 4 tonnes of ivory were seized by Thai officials according to media reports out of Bangkok today. The 739 ivory tusks were smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thai officials claim the shipment is worth about USD 6.2 million. The final destinations for the ivory were believed to include China, Thailand and Vietnam.

Ironically, today is also the final day for Thai citizens to declare their own ivory holdings or face a fine of up to 3 million baht. So far over 150 tonnes have been registered with officials. 

“Seizures of ivory are always good news in the fight against poaching and illegal trafficking because they indicate improved levels of law enforcement, but seizures are the public face of a very tragic scenario that is killing upwards of 35,000 elephants a year and shows no sign of abating,” said Jason Bell, Director of IFAW’s Elephant Programme.

“Thailand is starting to take responsibility for its role in the international trafficking of ivory. Its legal market has long made it the ideal place to smuggle in illegal ivory from African elephants,” continued Bell. “In Garamba National Park in the DRC, where these ivory tusks may have originated, we’ve seen at least 68 elephants killed in the park in the past two months alone.”

“The responsibility to fight the international wildlife trafficking syndicates must be shared. Both because the tentacles of the illegal ivory trade extend across the globe, and also because the animals behind the products are part of our shared natural heritage,” he concluded.

As one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.

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”. 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.

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 works with Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme, and the two have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.

Ends

The 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)

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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