Monday, June 4, 2012

1.5 Tons of Ivory Seized in Sri Lanka

An African elephant family

It has been reported that customs authorities in Sri Lanka have recently seized 1.5 tons of ivory on the port of Colombo, marking the nation's single largest-ever haul of ivory. A total of 359 elephant tusks seized were hidden among logs inside a container labeled as plastic waste. It had originally come from Uganda, shipped from Kenya, and was destined for Dubai. According to Udayanath Liyanage, deputy director of Sri Lanka Customs' Central Intelligence Unit, customs authorities in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E) and Kenya have been notified to further investigate the case. In addition to that, a recent analysis by CITES' Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) showed that a number of Southeast Asian countries have turned out to be ports of call along the main ivory trade route in Asia to markets in China and Thailand. However, TRAFFIC Asia Program Director James Compton warned that this seizure indicates illegal ivory traders are forming new routes through South Asia for their illicit business. Furthermore, Sri Lanka Customs' Deputy Director Samantha Gunasekara addressed the need for further vigilance in the region. The seizure was made following a tip from the World Customs Organization's Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia and the Pacific (RILO-A/P) based in Seoul.

I find this article both interesting and useful because it highlights what the operators of the illegal wildlife trade would do, in order to conduct their illicit activities overseas. When some countries increase their enforcement efforts to halt any movement of illegal merchandise through them, the operators would look for an alternative route(s) covering nations that are not on high alert. In this case, Sri Lanka was one of those countries. In his own words, Mr. Gunasekara stated that countries in South Asia should increase their enforcement efforts so that the operators of the illegal wildlife trade would find it difficult to transport their contraband to any given market. For this reason, I feel that countries around the world in different regions should follow Sri Lanka's example and enhance their enforcement efforts to prevent any flow of illegal wildlife products. This can be achieved by the need for further vigilance and information-sharing. In addition to that, according to TRAFFIC, there should also be an enhancement in capacity building efforts in these regions to better implementation of CITES and adequate enforcement of regulations in the trade. This way, the illegal operations specializing in the wildlife trade would find it difficult to conduct their illicit activities.

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