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Thursday October 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 10, 2013 MYT 7:07:57 AM
by isabelle lai
A Customs officer inspecting seized elephant tusks smuggled from Malaysia in the northern port city of Hai Phong. — AFP
PETALING JAYA: A shipment of nearly two tonnes of ivory has been seized after slipping through Malaysian waters, the second such incident in a fortnight.
The illegal shipment of elephant tusks, high in demand in China, Thailand and Vietnam, was discovered by officials in the northern port city of Hai Phong on Friday.
The shipment from Malaysia, and destined for China, was declared as seashells before authorities found the tusks stashed among them, Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
It stated that the shipment was supposed to be transferred by road to the Lang Son border gate to China.
On Oct 3, Hong Kong Custom officials seized nearly one tonne of illegal ivory with a total of 189 elephant tusks.
It had been shipped from Cote d’Ivoire and transited through Malaysia, with the haul bearing an estimated sale price of US$1.49mil (RM4.8mil).
Customs director-general Datuk Seri Khazali Ahmad said he would launch an investigation into the matter.
Wildlife trade monitoring network Traffic South-East Asia senior programme officer Kanitha Krishnasamy said the use of Malaysian ports as a transit smuggling point from Africa to end markets in Asia had been a trend over the past two years.
“More worrying is that this is the second ivory seizure involving Malaysia in the last two weeks, which points to the frequency of use of our ports for this purpose,” she said.
She added that the Customs Department recognised the problem and was working to end such abuse of Malaysian ports.
Kanitha said Traffic was working closely with the department to train port enforcement staff, identify major trade routes and enhance intelligence-led investigations with countries involved in the import and export of ivory.
“We urge Malaysian authorities to contact their counterparts in Vietnam urgently to identify the parties behind the shipment.
“Malaysia must also increase communications with other transit and export countries to tackle the trade from an international source-to-market approach,” she said.
Although not a consumer country, Malaysia is listed as one of eight countries heavily affected by illegal ivory trade by the Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
On July 3, Kenyan officials seized 775 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 1.3 tonnes in the port city of Mombasa, which was destined for Malaysia from Uganda.
Last December, Customs officials intercepted a 20-tonne shipment at Port Klang from Togo, headed for China, which contained 2,341 pieces of elephant tusks stashed in two containers declared as wooden floor tiles.
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