27 October 2012

Tanzania: Controversy Over Origin $3.4 Million Ivory Seized in Hong Kong

Photo: The Daily News
The Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki

Wildlife authorities have explained that the consignment of elephant tusks that were seized in Hong Kong and reported to have been shipped from Tanzania did not necessarily originate from the country.

But four Tanzanians have been mentioned by the Interpol early this week in connection with the two shipping containers from Tanzania and Kenya that were loaded with ivory and seized in Hong Kong. Interpol Dar es Salaam office told The Citizen in an exclusive interview that their Chinese counterparts have asked Tanzania to trace the four suspects. The Citizen further quoted the Interpol source as saying : "It seems that the ivory consignment seized in Hong Kong last week is from Selous Game Reserve and Mikumi...we shall launch investigations into the matter:"

Speaking in Arusha last weekend, the Wildlife Officer Mr Paul Sarakikya said that in most cases the Dar-es-salaam port could have been used simply as gateway by illegal ivory dealers who usually collect such 'forbidden treasures' from as far as Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and other land locked countries.

"Tanzania has succeeded in curbing elephant and other wildlife poaching to a great extent, it may be occurring as isolated cases but such large consignment of ivory could not have been collected from the country," said Mr. Sarakikya.

The Wildlife Officer however admitted that Tanzania's ports of entries, such as the Dar-es-salaam harbor need to take greater care in screening containers from other countries being exported from the port because many of them could be carrying illegal goods including ivories.

Last weekend the Hong Kong authorities reportedly confiscated US $3.4 million (nearly 6 Billion/-) worth of elephant tusks found in two shipping containers.

The illegal goods weighed more than 8,000 pounds, making it one of the biggest seizures of ivory in Hong Kong.

The containers, according to Hong Kong Customs officials, had been shipped from Tanzania and Kenya. The agency seized a total of 1,209 pieces of ivory tusks and three pounds of ivory ornaments from the two containers.

Official reports revealed that Hong Kong Customs were alerted by a tip-off from Guangdong officials in China.

Last week, Hong Kong officers inspected a container allegedly coming from Tanzania which was initially said to be carrying plastic scrap and found US $1.7 million (about 3 billion/-) worth of ivory.

A day later, a second container from Kenya was seized with ivory which was again valued at US $1.7 million, according to Hong Kong Customs.

Seven people, including one Hong Kong resident, have been arrested by Chinese authorities in connection to the cases, according to the official report.

Hong Kong is viewed as a transit point for the illegal ivory trade, feeding into increasing demands in China.

Elephants are being killed in Africa at an alarming rate as international demand for ivory increases. Much of the demand for ivory comes from increasingly affluent Asian countries, particularly China and Thailand.

Last weekend the Police in Arusha region in association with Kilimanjaro National Park officials impounded an elephant rifle said to have been infiltrated here from Kenya and arrested one person in connection with the incident.

China has reportedly taken over Japan as the world's largest ivory consumer. And from 2006 to 2012, the ivory price in China has tripled, causing some Chinese to buy ivory products in Africa with dollars and smuggle them back to China to sell for a better price.

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