Malaysian Ports Key Ivory Conduit
A new report from environmental organization TRAFFIC points to Malaysia as the world's paramount ivory transit country, with its ports serving as a major gateway for the flow of tons of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia.
Ivory seizure records from January 2003 to May 2014 linked Malaysia to 66 confiscations worldwide totalling 63,419 kg (140,000 pounds). Only 19 of the seizures were made in Malaysia. The remaining 47 occurred outside the country, mostly after shipments had passed undetected through Malaysia’s ports.
‘"The sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia's ports has flagged it as a country of concern at the global level. Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, author and Senior Program Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
The vast majority of the 63 tons came from just 26 large-scale seizures. Large shipments and seizures, over 500 kg (1,100 pounds) in weight, point to the potential involvement of organized criminal networks.
The report, Malaysia’s invisible ivory channel: An assessment of ivory seizures involving Malaysia from January 2003-May 2014, shows that the Malaysia-linked seizures involved the import, export and re-export of ivory from at least 23 countries and territories around the world.
Particularly, it documents Malaysia’s progression over the years to the current position as the principal transit point for ivory sourced in Africa and redirected to Asia, especially Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.
More than 30 percent of all seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, the three major exit points in Africa for the world’s illegal elephant ivory trade. Seizures also linked Malaysia to Kenya and Uganda in the trafficking of 23 rhino horns between August 2010 and December 2013.
Malaysia has been implicated in further seizures beyond the study period involving at least five tons seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam after passing through the country. In July 2016, Malaysian authorities seized more than a ton of ivory originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Just last week, 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the smuggling of 114 pieces of cut ivory and other wildlife parts, that were seized from premises in Malaysia.
Malaysia is one the eight countries of primary concern that had been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory, requiring Malaysia effectively to implement a National ivory Action Plan to address the situation.
“With no open ivory markets, Malaysia’s role is purely one of transit. It can extricate itself from this situation if its National Ivory Action Plan focuses efforts on tracking and dismantling the criminal networks using Malaysia as a transit point,’’ said Krishnasamy.
Efforts by all countries subjected to the plan process to tackle this problem, including Malaysia, will come under scrutiny at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES which takes place from September 24 to October 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The report is available here.