Friday, September 9, 2011

Nearly 3,600 Elephant Tusks Bound for China Seized in Three Nations

Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib with a recent confiscation of elephant tusks

A recent seizure of nearly 700 elephant tusks was made at Port Klang in the Malaysian state of Selangor. The tusks were stuffed in gunny sacks marked "recycled craft plastic." Customs officials of Selangor were able to intercept and confiscate the shipment after being tipped by their counterparts in Penang. According to Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib, assistant director-general of Royal Malaysian Customs Department, the shipment was originally from Tanzania and bound for China. He further added that the tusks were packed in the same way as another one seized on August 19th in Penang. At that time, 664 tusks were concealed in a container from the U.A.E. Labeled as "used plastic," officials intercepted and seized the shipment at the Butterworth Port. The first seizure was made on July 8th when Wildlife and National Parks Department and Customs Department confiscated a container with 405 tusks declared as plywood at the Pasir Gudang Port. Although no arrests have been made, Zainul stated that investigations in all the cases will continue.
A stack of elephant tusks seized in Hong Kong

The latest seizure of elephant tusks made was one of five total seizures made over the past two months in four different nations: Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Tanzania. The first two took place primarily in Malaysia in which 405 tusks were confiscated on July 8th, while 664 from Tanzania were seized on August 19th. The third confiscation was made on August 23rd when a shipment of 1,041 tusks were seized in Zanzibar resulting in capture of two suspects. The fourth seizure was made last week in Hong Kong when officials confiscated 794 tusks on a shipment from Malaysia. As a result, nearly 3,600 ivory tusks had been seized in these three nations.
Ivory tusks seized in Zanzibar

This news clearly highlights the action taken by authorities in nations which serve as routes for the illegal trade in ivory and other animal parts. But at the same time, it is also disappointing with regard to the number of elephants killed which was estimated to be 1,800 animals. On a brighter note, the extraordinary achievements made by these nations were applauded by groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and TRAFFIC. Authorities like Zainul, gave credit to public in providing information. In my opinion, this is a perfect example of relationship formed between the public and authorities involved in the war against the illegal wildlife trade. However, there are also countries prone to such illegal activities but it is not known whether the public provides such valuable information to authorities or not. I personally think that these nations should follow Malaysia's example and form an alliance with their customs officials and other authorities as a way to help curb activities in the wildlife trade. This would make it difficult for the operators of this illicit and lucrative business to function their activities.

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