News just broke that Malaysian customs officials confiscated a shipment of 700 tusks destined for a final destination in China and reportedly coming from the port of Dar es Salaam. The blood ivory is thought to be worth over 1 million US Dollars on the black market.
Malaysia has stepped up surveillance and monitoring of transit cargos from the East African ports destined for China, following increasing pressure from global conservation groups to do more to prevent contraband of this nature to be shipped via Malaysian ports. In August did authorities in Hong Kong detect over 2 tons of ivory, also shipped from East Africa via Malaysia, triggering a series of measures being instituted by Malaysian customs officials to bring the illicit trade to a halt.
Conservation groups from around the world have hailed the latest seizure of an ivory shipment but at the same time expressed their disappointment that blood ivory can still pass through ports like Dar es Salaam undetected, demanding that authorities there too step up monitoring and inspections.
A DNA analysis of the ivory is due to be carried out to establish the exact origin of the ivory consignment but it is thought that it may have either come from Tanzania or been shipped from beyond via Tanzania. Government in Dar es Salaam has often denied that lax enforcement is to blame but increasing finds in Asia of cargos originating in Tanzania have done little to make the world community believe empty assurances.
However, only last week did Tanzania officially launch a national task force to combat poaching across game reserves and national parks, maybe a sign that constant criticism and actual evidence that ivory has been shipped out of Dar es Salaam has finally prompted the country to take its obligation under the CITES Convention more seriously and take more drastic measures to bring poachers to book.
China is regularly mentioned as the main culprit country, as growing wealth has triggered a wave of demand for ivory and other wildlife products like rhino horns, but there is little indication that the Chinese government is robustly enforcing existing laws and regulations to prevent the illegal import, processing and possession of ivory in order to support Africa in her daunting task to ensure the survival of the elephant species.