Huge haul of illegal ivory found in suitcase at Heathrow Airport


by Hannah Al-Othman

Date Published

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One of the UK’s largest-ever shipments of illegal ivory has been seized by Border Force officials at Heathrow Airport.

In total 110kg of ivory, including raw tusks, was found in baggage left abandoned in transit between Angola and Hanover, in Germany.    

Officers searched a suitcase at Terminal 4 on October 14, and found raw tusks as well as other items including carved bangles and beads.

The contents were taken away for forensic analysis by a specialist team who later confirmed that the products were ivory, and the seizure is now being investigated by the National Crime Agency.

Trade in ivory is strictly controlled under the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and products can only be brought into or sent out of the EU if the correct permits have been issued in advance.  

Phil Douglas, Director, Border Force Heathrow said: “This is one of the largest seizures of its kind made in the UK and it demonstrates the vigilance of our officers. The illicit trade in animal products like ivory is a serious contributory factor in the threat of extinction faced by many endangered species and that is why the rules around it are so strict.

“Border Force takes its role in preventing illegal wildlife trafficking very seriously and, working together with our partners in the UK and internationally, we are determined to bring it to an end.”  

Alexander Rhodes, CEO of the Stop Ivory Group, added: “Ivory represents dead elephants. Seizing illegal shipments of ivory is a grizzly but essential business.

“Border Force and the NCA should be congratulated on this major haul. Their expertise and focus – at home and with colleagues worldwide – is fundamental to defeating organised criminals and protecting our shared heritage.”

Anyone with information about activity they suspect may be linked to smuggling and trafficking of any kind should call the UK hotline on: +44 (0)800 59 5000.