Thai Customs seize 1.4 tonnes of ivory

A series of recent large-scale ivory seizures suggest an increased involvement of organized crime syndicates in the illicit ivory trade, connecting African source countries with Asian end-use markets © Joyce Wu/TRAFFIC  Bangkok, Thailand, 21 April 2010—Customs officers at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport seized almost 1.4 tonnes of elephant ivory tusks on 17 April, officials in Thailand announced today.

Acting on a tip-off, Customs officers discovered 296 African Elephant tusks weighing a combined total of 1,390 kg inside three crates on board a flight from Qatar. The cargo was labeled as “printing metal” and addressed to a Thai company based in Bangkok.

This is the latest in a series of large scale ivory seizures involving Thailand and ivory illegally transported from Africa via the Middle East: in February, Customs officials at Suvarnabhumi seized 239 African Elephant tusks weighing an estimated two tonnes, reported to be the country’s biggest ever ivory seizure. The ivory was said to have arrived on an Emirates flight from Dubai where it arrived from Nairobi, and was apparently destined for Lao PDR.

Earlier, in August 2009, officials at the airport were reported to have seized 316 pieces of ivory weighing 812 kg in a shipment from Uganda and Kenya.

In November 2009, Thailand was identified as one of the top three countries most highly implicated in the illicit ivory trade —along with Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo—in the latest Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) report, an official document presented to governments at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

At the latest CITES meeting—ironically enough, held in Qatar last month—governments pledged to do more to tackle the illicit trade in ivory, but this latest seizure underlines the scale of the task faced by enforcement authorities.

Just last month, H.E. Mr Suwit Khunkitti, Thailand’s Minster of Natural Resources and Environment, launched a “Buy Ivory, buy trouble” campaign targeting passengers through Suvarnabhumi Airport and asking that tourists in particular did not help fuel the illicit ivory trade through purchasing and transporting ivory items across international borders.

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