In first Middle Eastern ivory crush, UAE sends a message

UAE, the first country in the Middle East to destroy its ivory stockpile, is a role model for all neighboring countries. United Arab Emirates’ Ministry of Environment and Water, in collaboration with Dubai Municipality and other local authorities, has responded to the call by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to destroy its more than 10 tonnes of illegal ivory today.

This ensures that this sizeable cache, seized over a number of years as illegal shipments tracked through UAE borders, will never find its way into the marketplace.

In the past two years, many other countries like Chad, Kenya, Belgium, France, the US, China and Ethiopia have destroyed their stockpiles to make a point that the elephant poaching crisis, inflamed by an insatiable demand for ivory, shall not be ignored.

The UAE has built an incredible transportation hub, which is good for tourism and the economy, but which has become an ivory trade route because illegal ivory sometimes transits from East Africa to Asia through the Middle East; a strategic location for trade.

UAE, the first country in the Middle East to destroy its ivory stockpile, is a role model for all neighboring countries.

We are confident that the actions taken today will send ripples through the region and make headlines across the world that the Middle East will not tolerate a trade that causes mass slaughter of elephants.

UAE authorities have been very strict with regard to the illegal trade in ivory, and have partnered with IFAW on a number of occasions concerning wildlife crime.

In 2012, Dubai Customs and IFAW signed a memorandum of understanding aiming to improve the welfare of wild animals and train customs officers to better understand CITES enforcement policies, as well as identify and halt illegal wildlife products and smuggled wildlife.

IFAW advisor Dr. Akram Eissa Darwich stands in front of an inflatable elephant that was on hand for the Dubai ivory crush.Continuing these efforts, next month, from 17 to 21 May 2015, Ministry of Environment and Water in cooperation with IFAW and Dubai customs intend to organize prevention of wildlife trafficking capacity building training for UAE customs, 40 customs officers are expected to participate in this upcoming training.

In fact, one officer who received IFAW training in the past aborted an attempt in November 2012 to smuggle into the country a large consignment of ivory hidden in 40 boxes containing “beans.”

The following May, Dubai customs authorities seized 259 elephant tusks 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”.

The above mentioned efforts as well as Ivory campaign awareness campaign (Ivory smuggling leads to prosecution) organized by Dubai police, in cooperation of IFAW and Ministry of Environment are making it almost impossible to get it through, and smugglers have been forced to entertain alternative routes through other countries.

Earlier this year, Dubai Airport security invited IFAW’s Middle East Regional Office to participate in delivering more than 1,500 pieces of confiscated elephant ivory to the Ministry of Environment in the United Arab Emirates, the same government department that stands with us as a partner today.

The ivory crush event will be followed up by an awareness campaign in Dubai and Abu Dhabi airports warning transit passengers that illegal wildlife trade is a crime.

--EM

Learn more about IFAW efforts to stop illegal wildlife trade on our campaign page.

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Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
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