$48 million in illegal ivory from hundreds of elephants seized at border

Customs authorities in Singapore seized $48 million in illegal ivory from hundreds of elephants and pangolin scales from as many as 2,000 of the anteaterlike animals.

>> Read more trending news 

The country's National Parks Board, known as NParks, posted information about the bust on social media Tuesday.

Investigators, after a tip from China's customs department, discovered the illegal ivory, which they estimated came from as many as 300 African elephants, and pangolin scales in three shipping containers that were listed as holding timber, according to a statement from NParks.

The containers originated in the Democratic Republic of Congo and were headed for Vietnam.
"These latest seizures are testament to Singapore's commitment to the global effort to stem illegal trade in CITES-listed species, including their parts and derivatives," NParks officials said. CITES stands for Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Officials said they plan on destroying the seized scales and ivory.

"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," NParks said.

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

View this post on Instagram

Over the weekend, NParks, working with Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, and with cooperation from the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China, seized 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales and 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory. These are believed to have come from close to 2,000 Giant Pangolins and nearly 300 African Elephants. ☹️ The loss of these pangolins serve a demand that has no scientific basis, as the scales of these gentle ant-eaters are made of keratin, the same materials as our skin and hair. Similarly, elephant tusks are elongated incisors no different from our teeth. Yet their ivory is sought after for use in ornaments, jewellery, and traditional medicine. The loss of these Giant Pangolins and African Elephants, which are both classified by IUCN as Vulnerable, would have an adverse impact on their native ecosystems. This is why Singapore does not condone illegal trade in CITES-listed species, including their parts and derivatives. We will continue to work with our fellow agencies to play our part in the global effort to tackle the illegal trade in wildlife. We can all help to reduce the demand by not buying wildlife parts and their products. With reduced demand, the illegal wildlife trade would be less lucrative for poachers. You may also alert NParks of any suspected cases of illegal wildlife trade via our feedback form at www.nparks.gov.sg/feedback, or call us at 1800-471-7300. Any information that you provide will be kept strictly confidential. Photo credits: Lena Han, and National Parks Board

A post shared by National Parks Board (@nparksbuzz) on

Eight species of pangolins live in Asia and Africa and range from vulnerable to critically endangered. All eight species are protected under international laws. Their meat is considered a delicacy in some countries and their scales are believed to contain medicinal qualities.

Ivory, which is used to make jewelry, combs and other items, has been illegal since the late 1980s, when the population of elephants in Africa dropped from the millions in the mid-20th century to about a half-million by 1989.

CBS News reported that the global trade in illegal animal parts such as ivory, pangolin scales, rhino horn and other illegally harvested goods, such as timber, net as much as $150 billion a year with much of the profits going to fund organized crime across the planet, including terrorism.

About the Author