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Elephant tusks and pangolin scales seized, six suspects arrested in Ivory Coast

  • Ivory Coast officials have announced the seizure of over half a ton each of elephant tusks and pangolin scales.
  • The ivory and pangolin scales were being shipped to Vietnam and other Asian countries, officials said.
  • Six people, including a Vietnamese national alleged to be the leader of the criminal syndicate, were also arrested.

Officials in Ivory Coast have announced the seizure of over half a ton each of elephant tusks and pangolin scales following a crackdown on a transnational trafficking network. Authorities also confiscated some leopard parts and illegal firearms, according to a press release by the EAGLE Network, an anti-trafficking group.

The ivory, valued at about $450,000 on the black market, was being shipped to Vietnam, Bonaventure Adomo, head of Ivory Coast’s anti-smuggling unit, told reporters on Jan. 25. The pangolin scales, estimated to fetch around $350,000, were destined for other Asian countries, he added.

African elephant. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

The operation, conducted by Ivory Coast authorities with assistance from the EAGLE Network and the U.S. government, also led to the arrest of six suspects believed to have been operating a criminal syndicate in several African and Asian countries for years, the EAGLE Network said. The arrested suspects include a Vietnamese national, who is thought to be the leader of the syndicate.

To ship the tusks undetected, the smugglers reportedly hid the ivory inside hollowed-out logs, filled up the empty spaces with wax, closed the logs with glue, and mixed them among regular timber inside shipping containers.

Officials have seen the same modus operandi in other seizures in Kenya and Mozambique, the press release said, “making this criminal syndicate an extremely important one in wildlife trafficking.”

“Unfortunately, most large ivory seizures are not followed by any arrests,” said Ofir Drori, founding director of the EAGLE Network. “But with a hands-on approach and international cooperation, as we had here between Ivory Coast and the United States, we can get the kingpins behind bars where they belong.”

Elephant tusks confiscated by officials in Ivory Coast, West Africa. Photo courtesy of Eagle Network.
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