Tonnes of ivory were seized by Hong Kong customs officials hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania following a tip-off from Chinese authorities.
AFP reports that nearly 3.81 tonnes of smuggled ivory – including 1,209 pieces of raw ivory tusk and ivory ornaments – were found among plastic scraps and beans from two containers, worth $26.7 million Hong Kong dollars. Chinese authorities arrested seven individuals, including a Hong Kong resident, allegedly involved with the smuggling. Hong Kong customs department said it will step up efforts with mainland Chinese authorities to combat transnational activities following Saturday’s seizure, which was the city-state’s largest ever.
Under Hong Kong law, importing unmanifested cargo has a penalty of up to seven years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $2 million Hong Kong dollars, while illegal wildlife traders – those importing, exporting or possessing an endangered species for commercial purposes – face up to two years in prison and a maximum fine of $5 million Hong Kong dollars.
Elephants are brutally killed for international trade of ivory tusks fueled by demand from Asia and the Middle East. The population of elephants in Africa dwindled to an estimated 472,000 as increasing poaching for illegal trade, illegal game hunting and habitat loss continue to threaten their existence.