CityNews – Four tonnes of African elephant ivory worth $6 million has been seized in Bangkok in the biggest smuggling bust in the country’s history.
The ivory was concealed in bags containing dried beans and shipped from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Speaking to the BBC, Somchai Sujjapongse, Director-General of the Customs Department, said authorities tracked the shipment for two months and made the discover on April 18.
Authorities believe that the ivory was destined for Laos where it would be fashioned into ornaments and sold in the Chinese market.
This historic seizure comes at a time when Thailand is under pressure to crack down on its illegal ivory trade. The country was given until the end of last month to produce a credible action plan for reducing trade or face sanctions under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
The government insists they have now done this. The recent seizure of 100 kilograms of ivory last month and new laws requiring all citizens to register ivory in their possession suggest the government are taking a harder line.
However, speaking with Voice of America, Richard Thomas of TRAFFIC International highlights the scale of the problem and that there is still much work to be done.
“The Thai authorities are certainly to be congratulated on making this very important seizure. But it does underline just how serious the nature of this illegal activity that is going on is.”
In 2013, 20,000 of the remaining 500,000 African elephants were killed, primarily by poachers to fuel the demand for ivory in Asia.