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Seized ivory to be displayed

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Elephant tusks seized at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port last year. Photo supplied

Seized ivory to be displayed

The Ministry of Environment is looking at places to display seized elephant ivory and other illegal exotic items to highlight the “brutality” of people, despite international conservation organisation Wildlife Alliance calling for them to be destroyed.

Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra told The Post that some of the ivory seized at Phnom Penh port in a significant case in 2016 was currently in the hands of the courts, with the rest impounded in safe locations.

The haul included elephant ivory and pangolin scales.

“Relevant authorities should look at possible [display] locations. The goal of the government is to keep seized ivory, rhinoceros horns and other rare specimens to show to the public and for research purposes."

“We will consider how best to put the items on display for safekeeping and allow the public to view them and researchers to study,” Pheaktra said.

The Ministry, he said, had not yet set a date for the completion of the project.

Prime Minister Hun Sen disagreed with a request by Wildlife Alliance to destroy the more than one tonne of ivory seized in the 2016 case, calling instead for it to be put on display.

“Why should the ivory be destroyed? This would be like the destruction of evidence. We will put the ivory and rhinoceros horns on display,” Hun Sen said.

Chan Vichet, Save Cambodia’s Wildlife (SCW) programme manager, said the ivory should be put on display as dinosaur bones were.

“We will keep what we have confiscated from offenders. It is not us who take part in the destruction of wildlife. When we catch offenders, the Ministry of Environment will put their traps on display so people can see the brutality of those who use such equipment to kill animals in this way.

“If we destroyed the traps and wildlife specimens, there would be no evidence of this brutality for the younger generation to learn from,” Vichet said.

Suwanna Gauntlett, the director of Wildlife Alliance, could not be reached for comment.

On December 15, 2016, authorities discovered more than a tonne of ivory, as well as elephant tails, tiger bones and pangolin scales, at Phnom Penh port when they opened two shipping containers being transported from Preah Sihanouk province.

In the operation, the authorities found 640 elephant tusks weighing 1.3 tonnes, 137.6kg of pangolin scales, more than 82kg of tiger bones and nearly 5kg of elephant tails hidden under timber.