China Seizes Over Seven Tons of Ivory

Credit: China Customs
Credit: China Customs

Published Apr 15, 2019 8:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

The General Administration of China Customs has seized 7.48 tons of elephant ivory - potentially the second biggest ivory seizure worldwide since detailed records were first compiled in 1989.

The seizure was made by the Huangpu Branch of China Customs in Guangdong Province and took place on March 30, just five days after Vietnam reported the seizure of 9.12 tons of ivory in Tien Sa Port in Da Nang. Both seizures, if officially confirmed, are larger than the 7.12 tons of ivory seized in Singapore in 2002, currently the biggest on record.

238 customs officers took part in the Guangdong Province operation, and 20 suspects have been detained from cities around the country, including Hefei, Nanjing, Beijing, Fuzhou and Qingdao.

The tusks were shipped from African countries labeled as wood. Last year, China's General Administration of Customs introduced advanced detection equipment to improve the efficiency of its anti-smuggling work.

Speaking at a press conference held to announce the seizure, Hu Wei, Deputy Director General of China Customs and Director of the National Anti-Smuggling Office, described the case as involving an organized international criminal gang specializing in ivory smuggling.

Since the beginning of 2019, Customs officers nationwide had filed 182 cases of endangered species smuggling, including 53 involving ivory. As a result, the activities of 27 criminal gangs had been disrupted, 171 suspects arrested and 500.5 tons of endangered animals and plants confiscated, including 8.48 tons of ivory.

Moreover, China Customs had cracked down on illegal online trade and smuggling of ivory and other endangered species products, successfully eradicating at least two ivory smuggling networks on social media.

The Chinese government suspended imports of ivory and all ivory products in 2015 and ended commercial processing and sale of ivory at the end of 2017.

People caught entering China with wildlife products worth less than 200,000 yuan ($29,800) face up to five years in prison. If the products are worth more than one million yuan, they face a minimum of10 years in prison.

One ivory tusk is currently worth 250,000 yuan on average on the black market, and ivory products can go for 41,000 yuan per kilogram, reports China Daily.

The ban has had significant positive effects, with fewer people purchasing ivory, according to a report jointly released last year by the World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC, an NGO that tracks the global trade in wild animals.