HK$17m ivory seizure by customs largest since 2010

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 July, 2013, 7:27pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 July, 2013, 9:32pm

Hong Kong customs officials announced on Friday the seizure of HK$17 million worth of illegal ivory tusks, their largest seizure since 2010. The tusks were found inside a cargo container from the West African country of Togo.

Wong Wai-hung, customs divisional commander, said on Friday the smugglers had taken a new – though longer – route this time to ship the illicit elephant tusks from Africa to Southeast Asia.

The smugglers used to start in East Africa countries, such as Tanzania and Kenya, then head east to through Singapore and Malaysia before reaching Hong Kong, Wong said at a press conference.

The new route by which the smugglers hoped to escape detection, started in Togo, headed west and north to Morocco, before turning east to Asia, he said.

“This route is twice as long,” Wong said.

Since 2010, Hong Kong officials had made nine other seizures of illicit ivory tusks and all involved the old route, Wong said.

Thursday’s seizure involved 1,148 tusks of various sizes and weighed 2,183 kilograms. The HK$17 million haul was discovered in a cargo container at Kwai Chung Container Terminals.

Officials said the tusks were concealed behind wooden planks in a corner of a 20-foot-long container that had been destined for trans-shipment to the mainland.

According to reports by the United Nations and a wildlife agency, Hong Kong is on the frontline in the fight against illegal ivory trafficking and has a growing role as a key transit point in the illicit trade.

Ivory has always been in demand in China and elsewhere in Asia, where it is prized as a source of wisdom, sign of nobility and symbol of wealth. Concern groups say the mainland market has seen considerable growth as its economic power has risen.