Malaysian authorities on Tuesday destroyed around four metric tons of seized elephant tusks and ivory products thought to have been destined for China, Hong Kong and Vietnam, in trying to stop the illegal wildlife trade via Malaysia, officials said.
The ivory pieces with an estimated total value of 13.3 million ringgit (U.S. $3.2 million) were items of contraband confiscated at Malaysian ports and airports from 2011 to 2017, said Xavier Jayakumar, minister for Water, Land and Natural Resources.
“We will incinerate these case exhibits, the proscribed method for such cases, to ensure the exhibits stay off the black market,” he told reporters at a government-run waste disposal and management facility in Negeri Sembilan state, about an hour’s drive from the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
“These were seizures from 15 cases and from the total, 3,692.4 kg were complete and incomplete tusks while the remaining 228.89 kg were incomplete ivory products,” he added.
Authorities believe the contraband was being smuggled from Africa to China, Hong Kong and Vietnam when they intercepted the various shipments at the Malaysian ports, Xavier said.
“It’s quite hard to find the syndicate involved in the cases because the suspects arrested are usually not syndicate members but those involved in the shipment of the contraband,” he said. “Therefore, a special team was formed to investigate and identify the syndicates involved in the cases.”
Since 1978, Malaysia has been a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, Xavier said, adding that the country was committed “to this international responsibility to curb illegal ivory trading.”
Apart from working to combat the illegal trade in elephant tusks, Malaysia last August seized 50 rhinoceros horns bound for Vietnam. Their estimated value was almost U.S. $12 million.
And in February this year, authorities in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah made a record haul when they seized 30 metric tons (66,139 pounds) in pangolin parts and products, according to Traffic, a Britain-based wildlife trafficking monitoring group.
Malaysia’s proximity to the world’s major ivory consumers, China and Thailand, as well as its efficient and well-developed port network, are factors behind why the country is used as a Southeast Asian transit hub for ivory smuggling, Traffic reported.
The NGO would like to see Malaysia implement a National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) to fight the problem, said Kanitha Krishnasamy, Traffic’s regional director.
Traffic has also urged Malaysia to intensify its collaboration and communication with ivory source and consumer countries.
“Collaborative action, including risk profiling and targeting, as well as timely communication between source and consumer countries have already resulted in a number of successful seizures globally, and indeed forms part of Malaysia’s National Ivory Action Plan that was submitted to CITES pursuant to the recommendations of the CITES Standing Committee,” Krishnasamy told BenarNews.
“Such measures must continue, conducted in tandem with other essential actions, without which Malaysia will continue to be a prominent player in the illegal ivory trade.”