Thursday 20 June 2019

Record 3.2 tonnes of rare African ivory found at Cambodian port hidden amongst marble

Cambodia seized more than 3.2 tonnes of elephant tusks hidden in a storage container sent from Mozambique, a customs official said on December 16, marking the country's largest ivory bust. (Photo by BAN CHORK / AFP)BAN CHORK/AFP/Getty Images
Cambodia seized more than 3.2 tonnes of elephant tusks hidden in a storage container sent from Mozambique, a customs official said on December 16, marking the country's largest ivory bust. (Photo by BAN CHORK / AFP)BAN CHORK/AFP/Getty Images

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Cambodian customs officials executed their largest seizure of ivory ever on Saturday, adding to the country's reputation as a passageway for smugglers.

Officials at the Phnom Penh Port, in central Cambodia, seized 1,026 elephant tusks, weighing 3.2 tonnes, in what was the biggest haul in its history.

The rare African ivory was hidden amongst marble in a storage container, which customs officials have said was sent from Mozambique, a country in the south of the African continent.

No arrests have been made in relation to the seizure and Sun Chhay, Director of the Customs and Excise Office at the port, told Agence France-Presse, that the owner of the shipment did not return for their cargo.

Mr Chhay said that he did not know whether the ivory was intended for black markets in other countries, and refused to comment its destination, but insisted that Cambodia was only being used as a transitional port.

The discovery, which was reportedly as a result of a US embassy recommendation, comes as just the latest is a spate of similar seizures in the South-east Asian country.

Demand from Vietnam and China for the use of such ivory in traditional medicine, and ornamental artwork, has fuelled the multibillion dollar trade in illicit wildlife and recent seizures have highlighted Cambodia a key transitional point for the trade.

In April, over three tonnes of ivory bound for the country was stopped in Mozambique. This came after several other large seizures, including three tonnes which were found in a container of beans at the country’s south-western port of Sihanoukville in 2014 and a tonne found last year in hollowed out logs, also shipped from Mozambique.

The enforcement of illicit trade laws has been criticised in Cambodia and corruption is highly suspected. Last year the government received global condemnation for their decision to showcase their stockpile of seized ivory, as well as rhino horns and pangolin scales, instead of destroying them.

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