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Thailand seizes 1.4 tons of ivory at airport on tip-off from Qatar

mercredi 28 avril 2010

Thailand seizes 1.4 tons of ivory at airport on tip-off from Qatar Associated Press April 21, 2010

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - Thailand has seized 1.4 tons of elephant tusks, worth more than $2 million, hidden in crates labeled as computer printers, officials said Wednesday.

Thai Customs officials confiscated the 296 tusks Saturday at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport, acting on a tip from authorities in Qatar where the ivory was shipped from, said Kornsiri Pinnarat, deputy director-general of the Customs Department.

The seizure reflects how Thailand has emerged as a hub for the illicit ivory trade.

Poaching of elephants in central and eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia.

"Smuggled ivory comes from every part of world to Thailand," Kornsiri told a news conference. "In this case, the ivory was imported to be turned into jewelry, like rings and bracelets and decorative ornaments."

He said the estimated value of the ivory was 70 million baht ($2.2 million). Ivory shipped to Thailand typically goes to carvers who fashion it into Buddhist statues, bangles and jewelry to sell to tourists in Thailand or in other countries. Thailand is also a transit point for ivory forwarded to other markets like China.

In February, the Thai authorities seized two tons of elephant tusks from Africa labeled as mobile phone parts destined for Laos.

The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned all international ivory trade in 1989. But a legal loophole in Thailand, which does not address domestic trade, has led to a thriving local ivory industry.

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