Malaysia is the world’s principal ivory transit country, according to TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.
Malaysian ports are serving as a major gateway for the flow of tonnes of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia, an analysis by TRAFFIC shows.
Ivory seizure records from January 2003 to May 2014 linked Malaysia to 66 confiscations worldwide totalling a massive 63,419 kilogrammes.
The analysis shows that the Malaysia-linked seizures involved the import, export and re-export of ivory from at least 23 countries and territories around the world.
Kanitha Krishnasamy, author and Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia, said although only 19 of the seizures were made in Malaysia, most of the remaining 47 shipments had passed undetected through Malaysia’s ports.
“The sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia’s ports has flagged it as a country of concern at the global level. Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies,” said Kanitha in a press statement today.
The vast majority of the 63 tonnes came from just 26 large-scale seizures.
“Large shipments and seizures, over 500kg in weight, point to the potential involvement of organised criminal networks,” she said.
The TRAFFIC report documents “Malaysia’s progression over the years to the current unenviable position as the principal transit point for ivory sourced in Africa and redirected to Asia, especially Vietnam, Hong Kong and China”.
More than 30 per cent of all seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – the three major exit points in Africa for the world’s illegal elephant ivory trade. Seizures also linked Malaysia to Kenya and Uganda in the trafficking of 23 rhino horns between August 2010 and December 2013.
Kanitha said Malaysia had been implicated even in seizures beyond the study period – involving at least five tonnes seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam after passing through the country
In July 2016, Malaysian authorities seized more than a tonne of ivory originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Just last week, 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the smuggling of 114 pieces of cut ivory and other wildlife parts, that were seized from premises in Malaysia.
While commending this recent seizure, TRAFFIC urged Malaysia authorities to intensify their collaboration and communication with ivory source and consumer countries.
It recommended that the authorities enhance their risk indicator and profiling techniques to detect high-risk shipments.
Malaysia is one of the eight countries of ‘primary concern’ that have been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory, requiring it to effectively implement a National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) to address the situation.
“With no open ivory markets, Malaysia’s role is purely one of transit. It can extricate itself from this situation if its National Ivory Action Plan focuses efforts on tracking and dismantling the criminal networks using Malaysia as a transit point,’’ said Kanitha.
She said efforts by all countries subjected to the NIAP process to tackle this problem, including Malaysia, would come under scrutiny at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES which takes place from Sept 24 to Oct 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
FMT Reporters Online