KUALA LUMPUR: A new analysis by wildlife trade watchdog Traffic has found that Malaysia has become the world’s leading transit country for African ivory bound for the Asian market.
Some 66 seizures worldwide from January 2003 to May 2014 and involved a total of 63 tonnes have been linked to Malaysia. Nineteen of the seizures were made in Malaysia.
The analysis shows that the Malaysia-linked seizures involved the import, export and re-export of ivory from at least 23 countries and territories around the world.
It documented Malaysia’s progression over the years to its current position as the principal ivory transit point to Asian countries especially Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.
Traffic South-East Asia author and senior programme manager Kanitha Krishnasamy said the sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia’s ports had flagged it as a country of concern at the global level.
“Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies.
“The vast majority of the 63 tonnes came from just 26 large-scale seizures. Large shipments and seizures, over 500kg in weight, point to the potential involvement of organised criminal networks.
“More than 30% of all seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, which are the three major exit points in Africa for the world’s illegal elephant ivory trade,” she said in a statement yesterday.
The seizures also linked Malaysia to Kenya and Uganda in the trafficking of 23 rhino horns between August 2010 and December 2013.
Kanitha said Malaysia had been implicated in further seizures beyond the study period involving at least five tonnes seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam after passing through the country.
In July, customs officers at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport foiled an attempt to smuggle a tonne of African ivory pieces from Congo, worth more than RM10mil.
Last week, 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the smuggling of 114 pieces of cut ivory and other wildlife parts that were seized from premises in Malaysia.
Kanitha said Traffic commended the recent seizures and urged Malaysia to intensify its collaboration and communication with ivory sources and consumer countries.
“Malaysia is one the eight countries of ‘primary concern’ that had been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory, requiring Malaysia to effectively implement a National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) to address the situation,” she said.
She added that efforts by all countries subjected to the NIAP process to tackle this problem, including Malaysia, will come under scrutiny at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES which will take place from Sept 24 to Oct 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.