According to reports in the international media, the ivory, worth an estimated 800,000 US dollars, arrived at Bangkok International Airport on 27 March
The director-general of the Thai Customs Department, Kulit Sombatsiri, speaking at a Tuesday press conference, said that the 87 tusks were packed into a dozen barrels that originated in Mozambique. The ivory was detected through a routine scan of the barrels at Bangkok airport.
Kulit said a Kenyan national was due to pick up the ivory, but is believed to have fled the country after learning the tusks had been seized.
Kulit told reporters that the Thai authorities alerted Kenyan officials, who discovered a further 561 kilos of ivory in Nairobi waiting to be shipped to the same man.
On 29 March, two days after the Bangkok seizure, the Kenyan authorities announced that they had apprehended a cargo of 18 pieces of raw ivory, originating in Mozambique and on its way to Thailand. This cargo, valued at about 63,000 US dollars, may be part of the 561 kilos mentioned by Kulit.
The unavoidable question is: how did baggage packed with ivory pass through Maputo International Airport undetected? The airport, just like its Bangkok equivalent, is equipped with electronic scanners precisely so that illicit cargo can be detected.
Kulit said this was the fifth seizure of elephant tusks this year in Thailand. Repeatedly United Nations reports have mentioned Thailand is one of the main destinations for African ivory. The involvement of Thailand was so serious that the body which regulates international trade in endangered species, CITES, put Thailand on a watch list of eight countries. This required it to formulate an action plan to fight against the illegal ivory trade through legislation and enforcement or face the possibility of trade sanctions.