Illegal Ivory Trade Alive and Well

In breaking news today, reports are coming in of Hong Kong Customs arresting 15 passengers travelling through its International Airport in connection with 790kg of seized raw ivory tusks and carved bracelets, beads, chopsticks and hankos (Japanese signature seals). The ivory, some of it visibly blood stained and found in 32 pieces of luggage, was reportedly coming from Angola and involved a complicated route via South Africa, Ethiopia and South Korea. Cambodia and Vietnam* have been floated as possible final destinations for this ivory.

Today’s news comes hot on the heels of shocking news from Kenya. While conducting a population census in Maasai Mara Game Reserve earlier this month, scientists came across 117 elephant carcasses stripped of their tusks. On the 5th of June, 302 tusks were impounded at Mombasa Port while being packed for loading and export. One arrest was made despite a bribery attempt.

Last month, the South African government reported its first case of elephant poaching in three years. Many others dispute this claim however, pointing to other incidents that have taken place since 2007, when poaching began to escalate dramatically across Africa. Either way, as many feared, it is becoming clear that no country or elephant population is immune to the scourge of elephant poaching.

Born Free believes the illegal ivory trade must be hit where it hurts most – in the legal domestic trade driving demand and fuelling this poaching – countries which have a thriving market for ivory such as China and Hong Kong must, with extreme urgency, ban the trade.

Furthermore, while this poaching and ivory trade is rampant and many elephant populations are in freefall, it is clear that discussing a situation where a legal international trade in ivory can take place would endanger lives. This is one of the many reasons why Born Free will be attending next month’s CITES Standing Committee meeting in Geneva, urging Parties to the Convention to suspend a 2007 decision compelling them to put in place a mechanism for a process of international trade in ivory.

*In late May Hai Phong Port in Vietnam seized over a tonne of ivory from a 40 foot shipping container, coming from Hong Kong en route to China.



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