Singapore records its largest ever haul of smuggled ivory

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Authorities discover the elephant tusks in a Vietnam-bound container alongside 11.9 tonnes of giant pangolin scales.

Elephant ivory weighing 8.8 tonnes has been seized in Singapore, with authorities saying the haul is the biggest ever in the city-state’s history.

The elephant tusks were discovered in a Vietnam-bound container from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Also in the illegal cargo were scales from the giant pangolin.

This is the third major seizure of pangolin scales in Singapore in 2019. Altogether, the haul was valued at $48.6m (£39.1m).

The haul of ivory came from an estimated 300 elephants, with almost 2,000 giant pangolins believed to have been killed for the 11.9 tonnes of scales found in the raid.

The haul falls just short of the 9.1 tonnes of ivory seized in Vietnam back in March, which the Environmental Investigation Agency said was the largest ever haul in the world.

“The seized pangolin scales and elephant ivory will be destroyed to prevent them from re-entering the market,” the Singapore Customs, Immigration and Checkpoints Authority and the National Parks Board confirmed.

Authorities in Singapore said China’s General Administration of Customs had shared the information about the illegal haul.

“The Singapore government adopts a zero-tolerance stance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts and derivatives,” they told local media.

“Our agencies will continue to collaborate and maintain vigilance to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.”

A flurry of seizures of illegal animal products, including rhino horns, have taken place across East Asia in recent months, including in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Vietnam.

Singapore is a part of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which banned the trade of ivory globally in 1989.

Even so, the charity Save The Elephants estimates that 100,000 elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010 and 2012 alone.

The pangolin, meanwhile, is the world’s most trafficked mammal and is critically endangered.

The meat of the pangolin is considered a delicacy in some countries, while others believe their scales are able to cure diseases.

However, this has never been proven. The scales of the pangolin are made of keratin, the same material that the human body uses to make hair and fingernails.

Elephant ivory is coveted as it can be made into items such as jewellery and ornaments. The tusks are also occasionally used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Under law in Singapore, the penalty for the illegal import, export and re-export of wildlife is a fine of up to $500,000 SGD (£295,000). Those found guilty also can face two years in prison.

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