A Malaysian customs officer carries elephant tusks that were seized at Port Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur, last year. The tusks and other finished ivory products, estimated to be worth US$1.2 million, were en route to Sihanoukville. Photograph: Reuters
Worldwide levels of elephant poaching and recorded seizures of ivory are the worst in a decade, and the port at Sihanoukville is emerging as a key transit route for African ivory headed for China and Thailand, according to a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
“Use of Cambodia’s Sihanoukville port, the country’s only deep-water port, as an export destination for ivory from Africa appears to be an emerging substitute trade route to China following the series of large seizures in Vietnam, which typically has served as an overland conduit into China’s Guangxi province,” the report says.
In 2011, two large consignments of African ivory, one seized in Kenya and one in Malaysia, were reportedly destined for Sihanoukville, even though Cambodia has never reported any trade action to the CITES Elephant Trade Information System, it says.
Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Laos, all Asian elephant-range countries, have never reported any information to ETIS, despite collectively being implicated in 572 ivory seizures, the report adds.
Lou Kim Chhun, general director of the Preah Sihanouk Autonomous Port, said he had not heard of the report, but dismissed its veracity all the same. “There are very few goods that are transported into Cambodia and forwarded to other countries [through the port]. It is rare for such forwarded goods to appear at the port,” he said.
“There are no goods transported to China, and there is no ivory transportation.”
Vuthy Ravong, team chief of Wildlife Alliance’s rapid rescue project, which cracks down on the road-based trafficking of wildlife animals, said his group had not seen any crackdown on ivory in Cambodia.
The CITES report calls on elephant-range states to improve their capacity to manage and conserve elephant populations.
The Post has previously reported that large-scale forest destruction has had an impact on elephant populations, which have been forced from the jungle in recent months and been sighted near human settlements.