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Huge 3.5-tonne ivory haul seized in capital

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Customs officials inspect elephant tusks seized from a shipping container at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port on Thursday. More than 1,000 pieces of ivory were seized. BAN CHORK/AFP

Huge 3.5-tonne ivory haul seized in capital

Working with US officials, Phnom Penh Autonomous Port has uncovered almost 3.5 tonnes of elephant ivory hidden in a container, the US Embassy in Cambodia said on Facebook on Saturday.

A tip-off provided to the General Department of Customs and Excise by a US Fish and Wildlife investigation team led to the seizure on Thursday, the embassy wrote.

Officials searched a sealed container and seized more than 1,000 pieces of ivory weighing nearly 3.5 tonnes.

“A joint US and Cambodia investigation has seized over 1,000 pieces of ivory. Working together, the US Fish and Wildlife investigation provided information to the Cambodian Customs and Excise Department that ultimately led to the search of a sealed container,” the embassy said.

The port’s Customs and Excise office director, Sun Chhay, said the 1,026 pieces of ivory were transported from Malaca, Mozambique to the capital in July. The unidentified owner failed to collect the shipment.

The ivory has been temporarily impounded at the port for further procedures. This is merely the latest in a long line of large ivory seizures in the Kingdom.

In February last year, the government decided not to destroy over a tonne of confiscated ivory in order to keep it for display purposes.

And in December 2016, the authorities discovered ivory, elephant tails, tiger bones and pangolin scales at the port, hidden under timber loaded in two containers that were transported from Preah Sihanouk province.

During the operation, 1.3 tonnes of ivory, 137.6kg of pangolin scales, 82kg of tiger bone and 5kg of elephant tails were all discovered.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Forestry Administration deputy director Keo Omalis said Cambodia has a plan to prevent the import of ivory and other illegal exotic items.

He said the General Department of Customs and Excise and the police were working with African countries and international organisational partners to help prevent and intercept the ivory trade.

“In the past, we have seized many loads of illegal goods . . . We have worked with our partners abroad. Cambodia has cooperated well with African countries and other important international organisations in order to get relevant information."

“There are tens of thousands of containers. If we do not have the information, we cannot [catch violations]. We can’t intercept the ivory unless we have international cooperation,” he said.

He said that Cambodia has an obligation to prevent and intercept the ivory trade in order to prevent the slaughter of elephants worldwide.

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