Significant seizure of elephant ivory at Heathrow Airport

©IFAW - archive photo
Tuesday, 24 November, 2015
Heathrow, London

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has congratulated UK Border Force for seizing elephant tusks and other ivory items at Heathrow Airport.

Border Force has described the haul as one of the biggest that has been found in the UK, totalling 110kg.

However, every piece of ivory comes from dead elephants, and the demand for ivory to make ornaments and decorative trinkets is pushing elephants to the brink of extinction.

The seized ivory at Heathrow Airport, which included raw elephant tusks along with carved bangles and beads, was discovered in baggage left abandoned at Terminal 4 in transit from Angola on its way to Hanover in Germany in October.

The items were taken away and examined by specialists who confirmed that the products were ivory.

The trade in ivory is strictly controlled under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Items are only legally allowed to be brought in to or exported out of the EU if the correct permits have been issued.  

UK Director of IFAW, Philip Mansbridge, said: “Border Force officers are to be congratulated for their work in seizing this ivory, which represents a number of dead elephants. Horrifyingly about one elephant is killed for its ivory every 15 minutes in Africa.

“The illegal ivory trade is not only a serious organised crime but a modern-day tragedy for elephants in the wild. Many ivory buyers are unaware of the terrible cruelty and devastating conservation impacts of elephant poaching and I urge people never to buy ivory products.”

Phil Douglas, Director, Border Force Heathrow said: “This is one of the largest seizures of its kind made in the UK and it demonstrates the vigilance of our officers. The illicit trade in animal products like ivory is a serious contributory factor in the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species and that is why the rules around it are so strict.

“Border Force takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and, working together with our partners in the UK and internationally, we are determined to bring it to an end.”  

The National Crime Agency will now continue investigations into this ivory seizure.

In a separate development, authorities in Vietnam have confirmed a seizure of 860 kgs of ivory. This is the fifth large-scale ivory bust in Vietnam in the last four months.

According to IFAW’s report Criminal Nature, increasing levels of illegal wildlife trade fuels poaching and trafficking, both of which rank alongside global arms, human and drug trafficking as serious organised crimes.

IFAW works to address all the links in the ivory chain; from anti-poaching activities, participating in ivory destruction events, working with enforcers to target wildlife criminals and educating consumers about the cruelty and impact of the illegal wildlife trade.



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.

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

CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (also known as the Washington Convention)

The Heathrow-based Border Force CITES team is made up of specialist officers who work closely with the National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), National Crime Agency and police to provide expert advice on border operational issues.

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