Mon, Dec 17, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Cambodia seizes record 3.2 tonnes of elephant tusks

AFP, PHNOM PENH

Cambodian Customs and Excise Officials on Thursday inspect ivory seized from a shipping container at the Phnom Penh port.

Photo: AFP

Cambodia on Thursday seized more than 3.2 tonnes of elephant tusks hidden in a container sent from Mozambique, a customs official said yesterday, marking the country’s largest ivory catch.

The discovery of 1,026 tusks at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port followed a tip from the US embassy in Phnom Penh, the official said.

It highlights Cambodia’s emergence as a key regional transit point for the multibillion US dollar trade in illicit wildlife.

“The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” port Customs and Excise Office director Sun Chhay told reporters.

He said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation and arrived at the port last year, but the unidentified owner of the shipment did not arrive to pick up the cargo.

Photographs of the massive haul showed long rows of confiscated tusks spread out on the ground at the port.

Sun Chhay said he did not know whether the shipment was destined for markets in other countries.

Demand from China and Vietnam has fueled the growth of illegal wildlife trafficking via Cambodia.

Weak law enforcement and corruption attract wildlife smugglers, especially at a time when neighboring Thailand is cracking down on the banned trade.

Ivory is prized for its beauty, while the market in traditional medicine has led to the smuggling of rhino horn and pangolin scales.

Cambodia has a minuscule elephant population, but its emergence as a new trafficking hub has resulted in several headline-grabbing busts over the past five years.

The largest before this week occurred in 2014, when Cambodian customs seized about 3 tonnes of ivory hidden in a container of beans at the southwestern port of Sihanoukville.

Last year, Cambodia also seized nearly 1 tonne of ivory hidden in hollowed-out logs discovered inside an abandoned container, owned by a company based in Mozambique.

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