Malaysia seizes 1,500 elephant tusks

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There are reports that Malaysian officials have seized a massive haul of elephant tusks. The Guardian states that 1,500 tusks worth more than 19M USD were discovered in two shipping containers by Malaysia’s customs department this week. The containers were found at a busy terminal port near Kuala Lampur. Officials say they were en route from Togo in west Africa to China.

The UK newspaper quotes state customs director Azis Yaacub: “The two containers were found to be filled with sawn timber. Inside the wood there were secret compartments that were filled with elephant tusks.”

The latest seizure is the fourth such discovery this year.

The Guardian reports that it follows large seizures of ivory globally this year, such as 0.9 tonnes in New York in July, 1.5 tonnes in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in May, and two in Hong Kong this autumn – one of which broke records – totalling 5.1 tonnes. 2011 itself was a record year globally for ivory seizures, totalling 24 tonnes.

Will Travers, chief executive of the Born Free Foundation, spoke to the publication saying: “I thought that when the international ivory trade ban was agreed in 1989, we would see a permanent reversal of fortunes for this beleaguered species. How wrong I was – the respite was temporary. Experts estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 elephants are being illegally killed each year to fuel demand, largely driven by China. No part of Africa is now safe. Across the continent, for the first time, the number of carcasses recorded as a result of poaching exceeds the number reportedly dying from natural causes.”

Last week, the WWF published a report on the international illegal wildlife trade. The oganization says the trade is so massive that it is now undermining national security in some countries.

Madison is a journalist/media consultant currently working in Toronto.