Three successful major ivory seizures this April by law enforcers in Thailand, Vietnam and China provide further insight into the markets being targeted by organized crime syndicates smuggling elephant ivory from Africa to Asia. In Thailand 247 ivory tusks concealed in a consignment of frozen fish from Kenya were seized by Customs on 1st April. A few days ago, on 19th April, media in Vietnam reported that police had seized 122 tusks found in a warehouse in Mong Cai, at the border with China. That very same day Chinese media reported an enormous ivory seizure, 707 tusks, 32 ivory bracelets and a rhino horn, found during a routine inspection of a large truck, a few kilometers from Vietnam’s border.
More than 500 elephants have been killed, by poaching, for this illegal trade of ivory, which is a major conservation concern. These seizures support the suspicion that Thailand an China still are the primary end-use destinations for this ivory coming from Africa. It also suggests that Vietnam is now serving as the major hub for trade into China.The increase of illegal ivory trade from 2004 onwards is very alarming, and these latest confiscations proves that smuggling of ivory and its corresponding illegal business is ongoing. People in charge of this ivory trade are working in sophisticated criminal networks, which utilise every means available (road, sea and air) to smuggle their contraband from African to lucrative markets in Asia.
“While major seizures, arrests and prosecutions are certainly deterrents to these smuggling operations, the only long-term solution to curtail elephant poaching has to be to reduce the demand for illegally sourced ivory to negligible levels.” said Tom Milliken, TRAFFIC’s expert on the illicit ivory trade. (Source: TRAFFIC, 20.04.2011)