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Four tons of African ivory caught in Hong Kong

By Paavan Mathema, for CNN
October 21, 2012 -- Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)
Hong Kong Customs seized ivory tusks and ornaments weighing about 8,406 pounds inside two containers.
Hong Kong Customs seized ivory tusks and ornaments weighing about 8,406 pounds inside two containers.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Hong Kong customs authorities seize about four tons ivory
  • Ivory ornaments and tusks came in two shipping containers from Africa
  • Investigators also worked with Guangdong authorities in China

(Hong Kong) (CNN) -- Hong Kong authorities confiscated $3.4 million ($26.7 million in Hong Kong currency) worth of ivory found in two shipping containers this week.

The illegal goods weighed more than 8,000 pounds, making it one of the biggest seizures of ivory in Hong Kong.

The containers arrived from Tanzania and Kenya, according to Hong Kong customs officials. The agency seized a total of 1,209 pieces of ivory tusks and three pounds of ivory ornaments from the two containers.

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Hong Kong Customs was on alert after a tip-off from Guangdong officials in China. On October 16, Hong Kong officers inspected a container from Tanzania claiming to carry plastic scrap and found $1.7 million worth of ivory. A day later, a second container from Kenya was seized with ivory valued at $1.7 million, according to Hong Kong Customs.

Seven people, including one Hong Kong resident, have been arrested by Chinese authorities in connection to the cases, said a customs spokeswoman.

Hong Kong is viewed as a transit point for the illegal ivory trade, feeding into increasing demands in China, according to a Time article published this week.

Elephants are being killed in Africa at an alarming rate as international demand soars for ivory. Much of the demand comes from increasingly affluent Asian countries, particularly China and Thailand.

The last major bust in Hong Kong occurred in 2011, when officials seized a shipment of ivory and rhino horns valued at $2.2 million in Hong Kong dollars.

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