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Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48m

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 25 Jul 2019 15:30
Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48mIvory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48mPexels/National Parks Board

A whopping 8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory has been collected in Singapore’s largest seizure to date, according to reports.

It’s estimated the tusks, taken from nearly 300 African elephants, have a street value of $12.9 million (£10.4 million).

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An additional 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, with a value of $35.7 million (£28.6 million), which is believed to have been taken from around 2,000 of the mammals.

The illegal cargo was seized from containers by Singapore authorities after they received a tip off from China’s customs department.

Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48BBC

They were found on a shipment from the Democratic Republic of Congo which was passing through Singapore on its way to Vietnam. The cargo was falsely declared as timber.

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The National Parks Board said in a statement:

Upon inspection, sacks containing pangolin scales and elephant ivory were found in one of the containers.

The pangolin scales and elephant ivory seized will be destroyed.

While this seizure is by far the largest of its kind, this isn’t the first time such animal parts have been found in the country. Singapore has seized a grand total of 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales since April this year alone, BBC News reports.

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Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48PA Images

Kim Stengert, chief communications officer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore, told Reuters:

Singapore has always been inadvertently implicated in the global ivory trade for two reasons: its global connectivity, as well as the presence of a small domestic market where pre-1990s ivory can be legally sold.

Pangolin scales are well sought after in Asia because of their use in traditional Chinese medicine. Meanwhile, ivory is commonly used for ornaments and in traditional Asian medicine.

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Anyone caught illegally importing, exporting and re-exporting wildlife could face two years in prison and/or a fine of up to 500,000 Singapore dollars (£295,000).

Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48PA Images

Some people are against destroying the stockpile of ivory seized by officials, on the basis it reduces supply and therefore drives up the price for traffickers, making the trade more attractive.

Meanwhile, others believe it must be destroyed like any other contraband to make it valueless, because stockpiling it like other valuable commodity only emphasises the idea it’s priceless.

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Dan Stiles’ behavioural economics theory, reported by The Guardian, could also be applied, meaning the burning of huge stockpiles could create the public perception that ivory is rarer than it actually is, therefore artificially increasing the price.

Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48Ivory From 300 Elephants Seized In Record Haul Worth $48PA Images

The biggest issue seems to be the overwhelming lack of evidence to support either support both sides of the coin.

In 2014, Karl Mathiesen wrote in The Guardian:

No-one (outside of the trafficking syndicates) really understands how the Chinese ivory trade works. Hence the inability to assess the effect of releasing 102 tonnes of legal ivory into the market in 2008. The world seems to be acting on hunches, rather than data.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: Animals, singapore

Credits

BBC News and 2 others
  1. BBC News

    Singapore seizes elephant ivory and pangolin scales in record $48m haul

  2. Reuters

    Singapore seizes ivory from nearly 300 elephants in record haul

  3. The Guardian

    Does destroying ivory save elephants?