Australian authorities seize illegal ivory shipment

Updated: 2015-04-10 15:51


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SYDNEY - Australian Customs officials have seized a large shipment of illegal ivory while en-route to Malaysia from Africa, authorities announced on Friday.

More than 110kg of ivory, valued at more than 500,000 Australian dollars ($384,000) and believed to have been harvested from poached elephants, was discovered on ship during a stop-over in Perth in Western Australia.

According to authorities, the shipment came from the Malawi on Africa's ivory coast.

Australian Custom Boarder Protection Service regional commander Western Australia Rod O'Donnell said Australia has some of the strongest wildlife protection laws in the world and commended the officers involved in the seizure.

"The smuggling of endangered wildlife and wildlife parts is a very serious issue and we are dedicated to shutting down this horrible and cruel trade," O'Donnell said.

"This seizure shows Australia's commitment to protecting the world's endangered wildlife for future generations."

Australia has strict laws about the products made from endangered species and follows rules set by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

It is illegal to buy ivory is not permitted in or out of Australia without a pre-CITES certificate.

Ivory products already in Australia come under the Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which is administered by the Department of the Environment and Heritage.

In February last year, Australian Federal Police seized almost 80,000 Australian dollars ($61,000) of illegal ivory products found in ornaments and jewelry after it received information by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Oceania about illegal trade of wildlife products through online trading sites.

Under Australian law, offenders can face a 10-year prison sentence term and fines of up to 850,000 Australian dollars.

According to the latest figures released by the CITES program last month, overall elephant poaching rates remained unchanged in 2014 compared to the previous year, accounting for about 20,000 elephants.

"African elephant populations continue to face an immediate threat to their survival from high-levels of poaching for their ivory, especially in Central and West Africa where the situation appears to have deteriorated," CITES secretary-general John E. Scanlon said in a statement.

"We are however also seeing some encouraging signals in parts of East Africa where the overall poaching trends have declined, which shows us all what is possible through a sustained and collective effort".