Freeland Applauds Thai Customs for Foiling Major Ivory Shipment

A Thai Customs storyboard shows the smuggling route from West Africa to Thailand

Calls on Shipping, Banking, Insurance Companies to Help Stop Wildlife Traffickers

Hundreds of dead African elephants represented in latest haul

A Thai Customs storyboard shows commercial shipping containers used to smuggle ivory to Thailand

A Thai Customs storyboard shows commercial shipping containers used to smuggle ivory to Thailand

Freeland applauds the investigative work of Thai Customs that led to the country’s largest elephant ivory seizure in history –4 metric tons–, announced earlier today during a press conference in Bangkok. The elephant tusks were exported from Matadi Port, Democratic Republic of Congo on April 6, transshipped to Pointe Noire of Congo, before being smuggled onward to Bangkok via stopping points in three countries, including Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Malaysia.

It appears that the traffickers tried to smuggle the enormous haul of tusks under the radar during the Thai New Year period, celebrated last week. On April 18th, however, Thai Customs detected the illegal shipment, which was mixed with bags of beans, through use of x-ray technology. The shipment was destined for Laos, where several major wildlife trafficking businesses have been operating.

“Whoever was behind this shipment is still at large,” said Steven Galster, Director of Freeland, “but at least they lost 4 tons of dirty money today. We must remember, however, that many more elephants will die soon if we don’t try something different.”

Noting how rarely the traffickers behind the seizures are identified and arrested, Freeland called today on the shipping companies that moved the poached tusks, as well as the insurance companies and banks behind the shippers, to do their due diligence, and help investigate the matter.

“This shipment was fraudulent and amounts to money laundering,” Galster noted. “It’s up to businesses that move commodities and money all over the world to ensure they are not inadvertently moving dangerous or illicit goods or laundering money. They can help investigators find the culprits and prevent this from happening all over again.”

A Thai Customs storyboard shows the smuggling route from West Africa to Thailand

A Thai Customs storyboard shows the smuggling route from West Africa to Thailand

Photos of the seized tusks indicate that some of the elephants were killed in West or Central Africa. Blood appeared on some tusks, indicating some kills were recent.

Freeland is designing and promoting a conservation and restitution fund that would channel penalties extracted from wildlife trafficking syndicates to support front line conservationists. “We need to make wildlife traffickers pay for the death and damage they have inflicted,” Galster added.

Freeland has also recently developed a training program for shipping and airline companies to help them detect and prevent wildlife trafficking. Later this week, Freeland officials will be talking to two shipping companies, one bank and one insurance company associated with this latest illicit ivory shipment. “Wildlife traffickers are some of the cleverest criminals in the world,” Galster added. “We believe these companies will want to help stop the traffickers and protect elephants and other wild animals. They just need to know what to look for.”

For more information, please contact:

Matthew Pritchett, Director of Communications, Freeland, matthew@freeland.org
+66 2 254 8321 ext 121

Note to Editor:

Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. Freeland is also the lead implementing partner of “ARREST”, the U.S. Government’s largest counter-wildlife trafficking program, which is sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). For more info, visit www.freeland.org  also; follow Freeland on twitter @FreelandPeople or facebook.com/freelandfoundation.

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