Officials in Macau seized over 500 chocolate bars filled with ivory from two South African smugglers last month.
The smugglers were traveling from Macau to Hong Kong when they were intercepted. Officials inspected the smugglers’ luggage and found 15 boxes of chocolate. However, the heavy weight of the boxes indicated that there was something other than chocolate inside. After melting the chocolate with warm water, the officials found 583 bars of ivory weighting 75 pounds (34 kilograms), with a market value of more than $76,000.
“We tried to use pointed objects to break it. We failed because it was very hard,” said Mak Wun Yin of Customs Service. “We tried several other methods and at last we soaked it in hot water. After soaking in water, it was easier for us to peel off the outer brown layer and discover that it was actually something white and hard.”
Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America, said in a statement, “Nothing shocks me anymore — especially at how far people will go to engage in illegal wildlife trade.”
He added, “Luckily, officials detected the ‘chocolate’ ivory before the traffickers turned a profit. Unfortunately, these incidents are not isolated, and trade in illegal wildlife continues to be a major global problem.”
From September to December 2012, more than 90 ivory seals — known as name chops — were found hidden in chocolate bars being sent from South Africa to Taiwan, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Hong Kong customs officials also recently seized 1,148 ivory tusks disguised as timber on a ship from Togo.
According to the WWF, more than 30,000 elephants are killed for their tusks annually. The illegal ivory trade is valued between $7.8 billion and $10 billion.
Poachers don’t only go after elephant tusks. In Kenya, poachers killed a pregnant white rhino and cut of its horn at Nairobi National Park. While rhino horns are made of keratin and not ivory, they are often sold on the black market for medicinal or ornamental purposes. At the beginning of the year, a record breaking two tons of illegal ivory was seized in the country.
What do you think of poachers trying to smuggle ivory in chocolate bars?