Once again proving that the merciless poaching threatening to drive African elephants into extinction isn’t about to wane, officials seized three tons of ivory tusks at a Thailand airport. Authorities don’t yet know if they represent a stockpile from the African source or whether elephants were freshly killed for this latest supply. Another shipment, this one totaling four tons, was seized on April 20; it came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, added the Manila Standard.
The 511 pieces are worth $6 million on the black market, the Associated Press reported. They were stashed in a container marked as containing tea leaves from Mombasa, Kenya. It likely hit ports in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore before ending up in Thailand, added the Daily Mail.
Both shipments of seized elephant tusks were on their way to Laos, which has become the new epicenter of the illegal trade in ivory. From Laos, they are sold to Chinese and Vietnamese buyers or shipped to Thailand itself. Ivory is highly desired in these countries despite the fact that African elephants are being hunted into extinction in order to meet demand.
Authorities were on the trail of this latest shipment for a while. Customs knew about it since they were shipped from Kenya, added the Mail. Some of the elephant tusks were completely intact and up to six feet long. Officials called them “more beautiful” than the April 20 seizure.
Elephant poaching is a growing problem that international authorities are trying hard to fight. And Thailand could be in big trouble if it doesn’t pull its weight – after all, as a top spot for smuggling, the country is a huge part of the problem. And though the Chinese are the most voracious consumers of ivory, the country has imposed a ban on imports.
Customs Department Director-General Somchai Sujjapongse said the poachers should considered their seized tusks a warning.
‘After these two consecutive big busts… the transnational crime networks must realize it is getting increasingly difficult to send their shipment past Thailand. But I think they will try to come up with the more complicated means, so we will have already prepared the measures to (tackle the issue).”
Tens of thousands of elephants have been killed in the past few years to satiate the world’s desire. Last year, a study suggested that if poaching continues, the animals will be extinct in a century. From 2010 to 2012, 100,000 of the magnificent creatures were killed by poachers, leaving 400,000 alive at last count.
[Photos Courtesy Dan Kitwood / Getty Images, Cameron Spencer/Getty Images, YouTube Screengrab]