Over 20 tonnes of ivory seized?

In breaking news this afternoon, the Malaysian press is reporting the shocking seizure of a 24 tonne consignment of elephant ivory in around 1,500 pieces by customs authorities at Port Klang, just outside the Kuala Lampur capital. Other details of this seizure should come as no surprise - the shipment originated in Togo, a known hot bed for the wildlife trade, it was shipped via Malaysia, which seized more than 6,800kg in just four interceptions last year and the destination was again, China. 

If this seizure can be confirmed it is far and above the largest of its kind in the history of the illegal ivory trade but paradoxically, its size represents a relatively small percentage of the total amount of illegal ivory feared to be in trade at any point in time. It also provides further evidence of an ever worsening trend - earlier this year CITES recognised that once safe, well protected, large elephant populations have now reached the tipping point, suffering an 'unsustainable' level of killing. Poaching is no longer the scourge of vulnerable small populations but of the entire continent.

Trade monitoring experts had declared 2011 as the worst in history for elephants, with more large-scale ivory seizures than any previous year, amounting to over 24,000kg. When a year later, a single seizure nets almost the same amount, one cannot help but wonder how much worse things can get and how much longer Africa’s elephants have.

Read a news report of the seizure


UPDATE: The Royal Malaysian Customs have now clarified that contrary to an earlier statement and media reports, this seizure was in fact of 2,341 pieces of tusks weighing a total of 6,034 kg, still making it one of the largest seizures on record.

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