Customs officials in Hong Kong have made their largest discovery in 30 years of contraband ivory at a cargo warehouse beside the city’s harbor.
The discovery which was found in a 40-foot container from Malaysia was declared to contain frozen fish. Authorities, however, found the tusks hidden away beneath the fish. The contraband ivory weighed about 7,200 kg (15,873 lb) and is valued around $9.22 million.
Conservation group WildAid is estimating that the tusks were gotten from about 720 elephants.
The agriculture, fisheries and conservation department of Hong Kong has said it will investigate the shipment’s final destination.
Hong Kong, a former British colony situated at the mouth of China’s Pearl River Delta, is a global transit hub for such goods due to insufficient regulations and huge demand from mainland China.
With the poor laws against the trading of ivory and other endangered species and their products, such as shark fin, pangolin skin, and rosewood furniture, traders exploit loopholes in the system and smuggle illegal consignments of the products to sell to unsuspecting customers.
Pressure has, however, been put on the country to stop the trading of ivory, following in the footsteps of China, Singapore, and the United States. Hong Kong, however, only timetabled a ban by 2021.
Hong Kong has been trading ivory for more than 150 years. It is fashioned into jewelry and sculptures, but activists say illegal poaching is pushing elephants toward extinction.
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The independent Environmental Investigation Agency last week identified Shuidong, a southern Chinese coastal town close to Hong Kong, as the hub for 10 to 20 Chinese-led criminal syndicates bringing in ivory from Africa.
African rangers detailed harrowing firsthand tales of elephant poaching during a June visit to Hong Kong, an event marked by a tense standoff with traders who say their business is legal.