Dubai Ivory Bust Seizes 259 Elephant Tusks

Archive photo ©IFAW
Tuesday, 21 May, 2013
Cape Town, South Africa

Dubai customs authorities have announced the seizure of 259 elephant tusks – believed to be the biggest bust yet of contraband ivory in the UAE.

The tusks were seized on 1 May, 2013 during a routine x-ray inspection of a container shipped from Mombasa, Kenya to Jebel Ali Port. The container’s manifest claimed its contents were “wooden furniture”.

“This seizure is yet another distressing indictment of East Africa, which is now recognized as a clearing house for the illegal ivory trade,” said James Isiche, Regional Director, IFAW Eastern Africa (IFAW –

So far this year, at least five tonnes of ivory have been reported seized – one tonne seized in Hong Kong SAR of China, exported from Mombasa; two tonnes seized in Mombasa; and a further 1,8 tonnes seized in Singapore, but shipped from Africa (port unknown). These seizures all took place during January 2013.

In November 2012 Dubai customs intercepted a consignment of 215 elephant tusks valued at US$4.1-million being shipped to Hong Kong from Kenya. They were concealed in bags marked as “red beans”.

IFAW Middle East Regional Director, Elsayed Mohamed, said it was not surprising the illegal wildlife trade had targeted Dubai as a transit point for illegal ivory.

“Dubai is a major centre for international import and export and is connected to many different trade routes. It is not surprising that wildlife trade is part of this mix,” said Mohamed.

“IFAW congratulates the Dubai Custom Authority and Ministry of Environment for their efforts in confiscating this shipment of elephant tusks.

“What is most important is that their work does not stop with this confiscation. IFAW urges the Dubai law enforcement authorities to proactively investigate where this ivory came from, and where it was going to. The criminals behind the killing of elephants for their ivory, and for ivory trafficking must be brought to book. Only thorough detective work will bring an end to this scourge,” said Mohamed.

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.

Few animals are as threatened by wildlife trafficking as elephants. Last 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.

IFAW assists Dubai Customs in training their officers in the prevention of wildlife trafficking.

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 1,600 governmental representatives at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006.

Tomorrow (22 May, 2013) IFAW will sign 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.

The agreement will harness the expertise of Interpol to undertake more intelligence-led policing to bring an end to wildlife trafficking.



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 Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Editors: To learn more about the illegal ivory trade please view IFAW’s online magazine, Unveiling the Ivory Trade:

Direct link to the iPad app page on IFAW’s Unveiling the Ivory Trade:

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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