Hong Kong seizes $1.4M in illegal ivory

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Associated Press

Posted on November 16, 2012 at 6:02 AM

HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong customs officers have made their second big seizure of illegal ivory in less than a month after confiscating more than a ton of the elephant tusks worth $1.4 million, officials said Friday.

Officers discovered 569 pieces of ivory tusks weighing 1,330 kilograms (2,930 pounds) on Thursday in a container shipped to Hong Kong's port.

Officers searching a container from Tanzania discovered 45 bags of unprocessed and unpolished ivory tusks hidden among more than 400 bags of sunflower seeds, said Vincent Wong, a Hong Kong customs divisional commander. The smugglers used an indirect route, shipping the ivory via Dubai, and transferred it from one ship to another, Wong said.

While the container's destination was listed as Hong Kong, officials believe the shipment was intended for somewhere else but would not say where.

The discovery comes just weeks after Hong Kong customs officers made their biggest-ever seizure of endangered species products, confiscating nearly 4 tons of African ivory worth $3.4 million found in two separate containers. Smugglers used plastic scrap and beans to try to hide the ivory.

Wong said the two cases did not appear to be related.

Wildlife activists blame China's growing presence in Africa for an unprecedented surge in poaching elephants for their tusks, most of which are believed to be smuggled to China and Thailand to make ivory ornaments.

Authorities are still investigating. No arrests have been made.

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Online: http://www.customs.gov.hk

Follow Kelvin Chan at twitter.com/chanman

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