Thailand seizes 300kg ivory haul from Malawi

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Specialtusk-force: Thai customs and forensic officials inspecting pieces of ivory after a press conference in Bangkok. —AFP

Thailand has seized more than 300kg of ivory from Malawi on flights into Bangkok’s main airport, authorities announced, underscoring the country’s continued role as a regional smuggling hub.

The latest haul of some 422 pieces of elephant tusks highlights the extensive international links boasted by wildlife gangs.

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Packages stuffed with ivory, together weighing 330kg, were discovered on two Ethiopian Airline flights from Addis Ababa, the customs department said in a statement, adding that the parcels had originated in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe.

A Gambian man, who came to collect the packages on Sunday, was arrested and charged with smuggling banned wildlife products the statement added.

The international trade in ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since the late 1980s after a precipitous decline in the population of African elephants.

But that has not stopped criminals gangs from exploiting the continued demand for the material in Asia.

Tusks and other body parts of elephants are prized for decoration as talismans and for use in traditional medicine across parts of Asia – despite a lack of any peer reviewed proof it works – with China being a major market for such products.

Thailand’s junta, which seized power in 2014, has vowed to crack down on the trade.

In 2015 Thailand incinerated more than two tonnes of confiscated ivory, the first time the kingdom has taken steps to destroy part of its stockpile.

— AFP