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Cambodia seizes 3 tons of precious African ivory

December 16, 2018

Cambodian authorities have seized 3 tons of elephant tusks from Mozambique following a tip from the US Embassy. The demand for ivory from China and Vietnam is a driving factor in Cambodia's illegal wildlife trade.

Cambodian authorities seize ivory coming from southern Africa
Image: Getty Images/AFP/Ban Chork

Cambodia has seized more than 3.2 tons of elephant tusks that were smuggled into the country from Mozambique.

Some 1,206 tusks were hidden inside an abandoned shipping container when the authorities made Cambodia's biggest-ever ivory bust.

"The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned," Sun Chhay, director of the Customs and Excise Office at the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, told the AFP news agency.

The official said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique and it arrived in Cambodia last year. He also said the owner of the shipment did not show up to collect the cargo.

Officials said the tusks were discovered after a tip-off from the US Embassy in Phnom Penh.

It was unclear whether the smuggled ivory was destined for markets other than Cambodia's.

China clamps down on ivory trade

Cambodia key transit point

The global ivory trade has been banned since 1989 after the number of African elephants dwindled from millions in the mid-20th century to around 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.

Read more: Botswana elephant massacre 'largest to date'

But in the past few years, Cambodia has emerged as a key regional transit point for the multibillion dollar illicit wildlife trade.

Ivory can be sold in southeast Asian markets for $770 - $1,200 (675 -1,052 euros) per kilogram (2.2 lbs). Smugglers also use the region to transport tusks to China where ivory is sold at even higher rates.

Ivory is prized for its beauty and alleged medicinal qualities in many countries in the region.

Read more: China ends 25-year ban on rhino horn trade

In 2014, Cambodian custom officials hauled three tons of elephant tusks at the southwestern port of Sihanoukville. Last year too, Cambodia seized nearly a ton of ivory hidden in hollowed-out logs inside a container owned by a company based in Mozambique.

Illegal wildlife trade is also common in other southeast Asian countries. Last year, Vietnamese police seized a total of 2,748 kilograms (6,058 pounds) of elephant tusks in the province of Thanh Hoa. In October 2016, Vietnam captured about 3.5 tons of illegal ivory in Ho Chi Minh City.

One of the biggest-ever ivory haul was made last year in Hong Kong, with the authorities seizing 7.2 tons of the precious item.

Thai customs officials sieze illegal African ivory

shs/ng  (AFP, AP)