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Massive African ivory seizure in Malaysia

11/12/2012 17:25:41

Customs in Malaysia with part of a massive ivory seizure said to have originated from Togo © Elizabeth John / TRAFFIC

1500 pieces of ivory shipped from Togo
December 2012 - Royal Malaysian Customs have made their largest ever seizure of ivory in transit through the country, finding 1,500 pieces of tusks hidden in wooden crates purpose-built to look like stacks of sawn timber.

Shipped from Togo en-route to China
The ivory, stashed in ten crates which were divided between two containers, were shipped from the port of Lomé in Togo and were headed to China, the Selangor State Customs Director Dato' Azis Yacub said. The shipment also transited through Algeciras in Spain before it headed for West Port in Port Kelang, one of Peninsular Malaysia's busiest container terminals.

Specially made secret compartments
The two containers, declared to be carrying "wooden floor tiles acajou", were held on December 7th and inspected a few days later. After removing the top layer of the crates, officers found the ivory in a secret compartment measuring about one metre deep. A Malaysian company based at the port is being investigated and if convicted, the company could face up to RM500,000 in fines and individuals a maximum of five years in jail, or both.

The compartments were disguised to look like stacks of wood. Photo courtesy of TRAFFIC.

The compartments were disguised to look like stacks of wood. Photo courtesy of TRAFFIC.

Togo is a major link in ivory chain
Togo is known to be a major source of ivory exiting Africa. Although it has never reported a seizure to ETIS (the Elephant Trade Information System, managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to CITES), the country is regularly implicated in reported seizures.

Increasing seizures
This is the fourth seizure of African elephant ivory at Port Kelang and the sixth in the country since July 2011. In September 2011, 695 elephant tusks weighing close to two tonnes were seized in Port Kelang and in January this year, another seizure in December 2011 yielded 1.4 tonnes of ivory, and in January this year, a consignment weighing 492 kilogrammes was also seized there, seizures have also were been made in other ports of Penang and Johor. Tentatively, the Customs Department has estimated the weight of yesterday's seizure at a staggering 20 tonnes.

Concern over Malaysia's role as a transit point for illegal ivory shipments was highlighted at a meeting of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) this July: the country was asked to report on what action it has taken to address the issue.

Azis called on the public to continue providing the department with information that would help them stop more shipments like these. He assured that informants identities would be kept confidential and a financial reward would be paid if the information led to a successful case.

"TRAFFIC commends the Customs Department on its vigilance and hopes to see it pursue all leads towards finding the criminals that are using Malaysia as a transit point for ivory," said Dr William Schaedla, TRAFFIC's Director in South-East Asia.

"We also urge authorities to ensure proper systems are in place to catalogue and stockpile the seized ivory," Schaedla.

TRAFFIC also encourages all the countries implicated in the seizure to investigate the case thoroughly, so that those behind the shipment can be traced and brought to justice.

Read the comments about this article and leave your own comment

Constant Murder of Africa's Elephants

The day will soon come when all of Africa's elephants have been murdered for humanity's - mostly Asia's - inane need to make carvings, trinkets, name stamps & jewellery etc. out of elephant's tusks/teeth, so this biggest of all land animals in the world, so magnificent & beautiful, must constantly, 24/7, 52 weeks a year, die a hideous death for the greed, premeditated murder & cruelty of humans. Despite efforts, it would appear that 2012 has been one of the worst years for the elephant & that the ivory ban has not had the desired effect. It's time to bring in THE DEATH PENALTY FOR THE HUMANS - the elephants have suffered the death penalty for long enough already at the hands of the humans.

Posted by: Lindsay Rooken-Smith Jenions | 14 Dec 2012 19:00:35

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