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(Cape Town, South Africa – 24 May)

Sri Lankan authorities siezed more than1.5 tons of ivory in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Tuesday, 24 May. The confiscation of more than 350 tusks is the largest in the island’s history.

© Sean Messham

The tusk cargo had been described as ‘plastic waste’ and was hidden among logs of wood packed in shipping containers. The container had arrived from Kenya, en route to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

“This is a greedy, vicious trade that is hell bent on getting booty to markets that demand it,” said Jason Bell, Director of the Elephant Programme of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

This has come after reports by Associated Press that over 5 000 elephants have been poached in five years in the Republic of Congo; earlier this year poachers in northern Cameroon killed about 650 elephants.

Bell continued, “For now ivory trafficking remains a low-risk/high-reward activity for international criminal syndicates. Each piece of ivory comes from a dead elephant and, until law enforcement authorities are resourced, equipped and trained to hit back hard at the illegal ivory trade, the terrible onslaught against elephants will continue.”

© Sean Messham

IFAW commended the Sri Lankan authorities for intercepting the haul, but has warned that the illegal trafficking of ivory will continue to enrich international criminal syndicates if more is not done.

INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme is working with IFAW in coordinating anti-ivory enforcement operations in 18 African countries.

“The operations with INTERPOL we are funding are vital for elephants now, but ultimately we must stamp out demand for ivory in China, and elsewhere as well. It is the only way to stop the slaughter,” Bell concluded.

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