“The operations with Interpol are vital for saving elephants now, but ultimately we need a complete ban on ivory trade, if we are to stamp out the trade,” said Kelvin Alie, the director of Ifaw’s wildlife crime and consumption programme.
Customs officers discovered elephant tusks, weighing 500kg and worth R6.1m, hidden in a container labelled “polyester and strand matting” in Port Klang, Malaysia. The port of origin was Cape Town.
In mid-November a consignment of 33 rhinoceros horns, 758 elephant ivory chopsticks and 127 ivory bracelets, with a street value of R140m was intercepted in Hong Kong in packages labelled “scrap plastic” from a vessel that had departed from Cape Town.
The organisation Traffic said recently that 2011 was the worst year ever for ivory seizures globally, with 23 tons of ivory confiscated. There had also been a dramatic increase in the number of seizures weighing over 800kg.
Most ivory is destined for Asian markets, the largest by far being China.
“It’s too soon to label Cape Town the latest transit point for illegal ivory en route to Asia, but the seizures and arrests of the last eight weeks are large enough to be sufficiently worrying and demand the immediate attention of local authorities,” Ifaw’s Southern Africa director Jason Bell-Leask said.