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More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Authorities pose with some of the nearly 300 elephant tusks seized during a bust at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in December after being discovered in containers imported from Mozambique. A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized in Mozambique last Thursday. Photo supplied

More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES' information was based on a report from the Club of Mozambique and other local media reports. The amount of ivory was initially reported as 1.5 tonnes, but was later upped to 3.5 tonnes, with the shipment reportedly hidden underneath plastic bottles.

Customs officials in Mozambique hadn't responded to a request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon, and neither had CITES.

The bust took place on Thursday at the Port of Maputo, according to media reports.

Eng Touch, an official at Cambodia's Customs Department, couldn't be reached for comment on Wednesday, and several officials at the Ministry of Environment didn't respond to requests for comment.

Cambodia has seen several high-profile ivory busts in years past, and two Chinese nationals were arrested in relation to seizures in August and November last year.

However, no arrests were made in the most recent ivory bust in Cambodia, which took place in December at the Sihanoukvillle Autonomous Port, where nearly 300 pieces of smuggled ivory were discovered. The tusks were found inside containers that were imported from Mozambique by Cam Transit Import, which has been linked to other shipments of ivory smuggled into Cambodia in the past.

Observers have described Cambodia as a transit point for smuggled ivory since 2013.

In early 2017, the Ministry of Environment announced that Cambodia wanted to keep confiscated ivory for scientific research and exhibitions, though it had to get approval from the courts. The decision drew outcry from conservationists, who have long argued that it is better to destroy seized ivory to deter future smugglers, and who worried the ivory would not be secure in the government's custody.

Chin Malin, spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said on Wednesday that he was still uncertain whether the courts would allow the Ministry of Environment to keep the ivory, instead of burning it as most countries do.

"For this case, I need to check with the specialised department," he said

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