Between January 2003 and May 2014, about 66 ivory seizures, totaling 63,419 kilograms (~140,000 pounds) of ivory, were made either within Malaysia or outside the country, but with Malaysia identified as part of the trade chain.
Most of the ivory — about 96 percent — came from just 26 large-scale seizures, each with more than 500 kilograms of ivory, suggesting that organized crime groups with “high levels of financial, organizational and networking resources,” are involved.
Most ivory seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the team found, which are the three most important exit points in Africa for illegal trade in elephant ivory.
Malaysia has become the primary transit country for illegal Africa-sourced elephant ivory, a new report by TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, has revealed.
The southeast Asian country has no domestic ivory market of its own, or a history of manufacturing ivory products, the TRAFFIC report notes, and functions exclusively as a transit point for smugglers moving illegal ivory shipments to consumer markets in other southeast and East Asian countries like China and Thailand.
“The sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia’s ports has flagged it as a country of concern at the global level,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, author and Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, said in a statement.
To find out the scale of ivory passing through Malaysia, researchers from TRAFFIC analyzed ivory seizures made by Malaysian authorities between January 2003 and May 2014. They also included ivory seized by authorities outside the country, but with Malaysia identified as part of the trade chain.
The TRAFFIC team found that about 66 ivory seizures, totaling 63,419 kilograms (~140,000 pounds) of ivory, were made during the 11-year period. Over the same period, about 335,604 kilograms of ivory was seized globally, according to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS). So the weight of illicit ivory seizures involving Malaysia account for 19 percent of the global seizures.
Most of the ivory — about 96 percent — came from just 26 large-scale seizures, each with more than 500 kilograms of ivory. These large-scale shipments, the authors conclude, involve organized crime groups with “high levels of financial, organizational and networking resources that enable illicit shipments to be transported across continents and seas without obstruction”.
Of the 66 seizures, 19 ivory shipments were seized within Malaysia. The remaining 47 seizures were made outside the country, in which the shipments had either passed through a Malaysian sea or airport undetected or was destined for the country. Most ivory seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the team found. These countries are also the three most important exit points in Africa for illegal trade in elephant ivory.
Outside the study period, between April 2015 and August 2015, over 5,000 kilograms of illegal ivory involving Malaysia have been seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Malaysia’s geographical position with respect to the world’s major ivory consumers, China and Thailand, and efficient and well-developed port infrastructure is certainly a key reason why the country is used to smuggle ivory,” the authors write in the report. “The sheer quantity and speed of cargo moving through these major seaports involves tens of millions of containers each year, making the detection of illicit ivory shipments extremely challenging. The large volume of ivory moving through Malaysia is testament to the repeated exploitation of the country’s port facilities by criminal syndicates, perhaps because Malaysia is viewed as a path that offers lower risk compared to other alternative ports in the region.”
In March this year, Malaysian authorities seized about 159 kilograms (~350 pounds) of illegal ivory at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The officials arrested two Vietnamese nationals in connection with the ivory haul worth $382,200. Then in June this year, authorities seized 1,200 kilograms of ivory at Juba International Airport in South Sudan. The shipment, that originated from Ethiopia, was on its way to Malaysia.
“Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies,” Krishnasamy said. “With no open ivory markets, Malaysia’s role is purely one of transit. It can extricate itself from this situation if its National Ivory Action Plan focuses efforts on tracking and dismantling the criminal networks using Malaysia as a transit point.”