馬來西亞皇家海關（Royal Malaysian Customs）11日宣布查獲歷來最大的象牙走私案件， 1500根象牙藏在看起來像木材的箱內。
這批象牙是從西非國家多哥（Togo）的洛美港（port of Lomé）運來，分裝在兩貨櫃中的10個木箱內。雪蘭莪州（Selangor）海關主管拿督Azis Yacub召開記者會表示，該些象牙原先預計送至中國。
眾所皆之，多哥是象牙流出非洲的主要源頭。雖然該國經常與查獲走私有關，但卻從未提報案件至「大象貿易信息系統」（Elephant Trade Information System, ETIS）。該系統是由野生物監控組織「國際野生物貿易研究委員會」（TRAFFIC）代表華盛頓公約組織（CITES）所管理。
「生而自由基金會」創辦人Virginia McKenna表示，「我害怕大象將會從非洲那些最危險、最沒有保障的地方永遠消失。」西非和中非的大象族群最為脆弱，但即便像肯亞野生動物管理局 （Kenya Wildlife Service）的巡守員訓練有素、資源充足，亦在全力捍衛大象時，失去了生命。
在非洲執行保育工作多年的生而自由基金會連同其他保育團體，要求坦尚尼亞收回成命，呼籲中國和日本等象牙貿易國家收回要求。呼籲國際社會前來資助非洲大象行動計劃 （African Elephant Action Plan），此乃分布廣達37國之非洲象的唯一生存藍圖。
Royal Malaysian Customs today announced their largest ivory seizure ever, a find of 1,500 pieces of elephant tusks hidden in wooden crates built to look like stacks of sawn timber.
The ivory, hidden in 10 crates divided between two containers, was shipped from the port of Lomé in the West African country of Togo. It was headed to China, the Selangor State Customs Director Dato’ Azis Yacub told reporters at a news conference today.
The shipment transited through Algeciras, Spain before it headed for West Port in Port Klang, one of peninsular Malaysia’s busiest container terminals, situated just outside Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur.
The two containers, declared to be carrying “wooden floor tiles acajou,” were held at Port Klang on December 7 and inspected Monday night. After removing the top layer of the crates, customs officers found the ivory in a secret compartment measuring about one meter deep.
Royal Malaysian Customs officials estimate the weight of this giant seizure at between 20 and 24 tonnes.
A Malaysian company based at Port Klang is being investigated in connection with the ivory seizure. If convicted, the company could face up to RM500,000 (US$163,500) in fines and individuals a maximum of five years in jail, or both.
Azis called on the public to continue providing the customs department with information that would help them stop ivory smuggling. He promised that the identities of informants would be kept confidential and a financial reward would be paid if their information led to a successful prosecution.
Togo is known to be a major source of ivory exiting Africa. The country is regularly implicated in reported seizures although it has never reported a seizure to the Elephant Trade Information System, managed by the wildlife monitoring organization TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES.
TRAFFIC is encouraging all the countries implicated in the seizure to investigate this case thoroughly, so that those behind the shipment can be traced and brought to justice.
This is the fourth seizure of African elephant ivory at Port Klang and the sixth in the country since July 2011.
“Last year, 2011, was described by trade experts as the worst year for elephants in decades” said Will Travers, CEO of the UK conservation charity Born Free Foundation, adding that the many large seizures made this year means “the bloody ivory trade has reached new heights of destruction and depravity in 2012.”
This year customs officials seized 1.5 tonnes of smuggled ivory in Colombo, Sri Lanka in May; just under one tonne in New York in July; and two shipments in Hong Kong – one of 3.8 tonnes in October and another of 1.33 tonnes in November, among other seizures.
Experts estimate that between 20,000 and 30,000 African elephants are being illegally killed each year to fuel demand, primarily driven by China.
“No part of Africa is now safe,” said Travers. “Across the continent, for the first time, the number of [elephant] carcasses recorded as a result of poaching exceeds the number reportedly dying from natural causes.”
And the situation could get worse in the near future.
With only three months until the next meeting of 176 Parties to the CITES Convention, Tanzania is seeking approval for the sale of more than 100 tonnes of stockpiled ivory to China and Japan.
“I fear that elephants may disappear entirely from those parts of Africa least able to protect them from the onslaught,” said Virginia McKenna, founder of the Born Free Foundation. “The fragile elephant populations of West and Central Africa are most at risk, but even countries such as Kenya, with the well-trained and well-resourced rangers of the Kenya Wildlife Service, are operating at full stretch and losing their lives in the process.”
Born Free, together with other conservation charities with many years of experience working in Africa, are asking Tanzania to withdraw its proposal. They are calling for China and Japan’s status as ivory trading nations to be revoked and for the international community to come forward with the resources necessary to fund the African Elephant Action Plan, the only blueprint for elephant survival agreed by all 37 African elephant range states.