Category: Media & Culture / October 22, 2012 5:57 PM EDT
Hong Kong seized a record HK$26.7 million ($3.45 million) worth of ivory tusks and ornaments smuggled from Africa, in one of the world's biggest seizures of illicit ivory on Saturday (October 20).
Hong Kong and neighbouring Guangdong customs officers seized 1,209 ivory tusks and 1.4 kilogrammes of ivory ornaments in a joint anti-smuggling operation at Kwai Chung container port in the territory earlier last week.
The haul of tusks seized, which weighed a total 3.8 tonnes, cost the lives of 600 African elephants, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Sunday (October 21).
It was the latest seizure in the city since last October when 11 tusks off a ship from Cape Town in South Africa were seized in the same container port.
Hong Kong was a major importer, trader and manufacturer of ivory carvings, crafts and products before international trade in ivory was banned in 1990 but customs officials stressed the territory was no longer an ivory hub.
"Hong Kong is not a major centre for this kind of illegal ivory smuggling. It is an isolated incident. The shipment was not destined for Hong Kong but was intercepted on its route," said Lam Tak-fai, Hong Kong customs' head of ports and maritime command.
Hong Kong officers found 972 tusks and ornaments inside 91 bags of plastic scrap in a container arriving from Tanzania on October 16 declared as containing plastic scrap, the government said.
Another 237 tusks were found the next day in another container from Kenya declared containing roscoco beans.
Asian tourists have increasingly been caught carrying or mailing ivory products back from Africa for resale, SCMP reported, citing Wong Tai-chiu, head of customs' intelligence bureau.