Thai Customs seize 700 pounds of smuggled elephants tusks


Customs officials seized nearly 700 pounds of elephant tusks in 87 plastic barrels smuggled from Mozambique at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok last week, the fifth major seizure of ivory by Thai Customs during the past 12 months, according to Freeland, an anti-trafficking civil society group.

“We can see that the traffickers are using different entry points, container sizes and smuggling techniques. So we must continue to be diligent and inspect all suspicious cargo coming in,” said Kulit Sombatsiri, director general of the Royal Thai Customs agency.

Last April, two large shipments of ivory were intercepted at Laem Chabang Port, in July more smuggled ivory was seized at Suvarnabhumi Airport, there was a sizeable seizure in December at Koh Samui International Airport, and then there was last week’s shipment.

Freeland said that last week’s seized ivory, worth$ 800,000 and “representing entire herds of innocent elephants,” was concealed with rocks and shipped over on a Kenya Airways commercial flight. The intended recipient was identified as a Guinean national named Sato Morie, who left Thailand after learning about the seizure.

“This tragic, endless and illegal loss of our magnificent species has to stop. That’s why [we are] appealing to the public and to any person inside the trade, ports, or government agencies to help us find these serial killers. You will be rewarded,” said Steve Galster, founder of Freeland.

Kulit said that intelligence reports indicated another 1,543 pounds from the same trafficking group were still waiting to be smuggled from Kenya and his department has alerted their counterparts there.

Thailand is one of eight countries heavily targeted by wildlife smugglers, and in particular smugglers of African ivory, which has prompted officials in the Kingdom to require that cargo from 27 African countries be X-rayed at all entry points to prevent smuggling, The Nation newspaper reported.

The eight countries are, source countries Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania; transit countries Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines; and destination countries Thailand and China. Thailand has taken strong action in recent years, both to end the trade and sale of domestic ivory, and is a leader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), which works with the United States Department of State.

Criminal gangs and militias are using sophisticated military weapons to kill elephants and take advantage of high-level corruption to move ivory across borders and off the African continent. Law enforcement officials in several countries have said that criminal networks use the proceeds from the illegal killing of elephants, and the illegal ivory trade, to arm rebellions and terrorism. They have claimed that the attack on a Nairobi mall by the terrorist group al-Shabaab was partly funded by the illegal ivory trade.