Over 1,500 ivory pieces seized in UAE in last 3 years


Salah Al Deberky, Khaleej Times

Date Published
See link for photos. 

Between 2011 and 2013, more than 2,300 wildlife-related items were seized, including the biggest haul of ivory. 

As the illegal trade in ivory mushrooms worldwide and poses a threat to the very existence of tuskers, Dubai has launched an anti-ivory trade to combat the menace.

The Ministry of Environment and Water is spearheading the drive in collaboration with Dubai Police, Dubai Airports Company and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Reports say nearly 35,000 elephants are killed every year — which means one elephant is falling victim to poaching every minute. With the world elephant population estimated to be between 420,000 and 650,000, if the killings are not stopped now, the gentle giants will become extinct in the next 12 years.

The campaign was launched due to the UAE agencies’ keenness to contribute to international efforts to save elephants. It seeks to send out the message that the international community should wake up to the gravity of the situation and everybody should join hands to curb the  menace.

At a recent press conference at the Dubai International Airport to announce the campaign, Ghanim Al Shamsi, acting Assistant Undersecretary for External Verification at the Ministry of Environment and Water, said due its strategic location, the UAE serves as a transit point between the East and West.

To curb ivory smuggling, the most important thing was to reduce the demand for ivory, he pointed out.

“Trade in wild animals generates huge profits,” he said. “Some rate it as the most lucrative after drugs and arms smuggling.”

The volume of illegal trade has crossed $19 billion per annum.

A weak surveillance and the inability to unite against traffickers would result in the extinction of elephants, he cautioned.

Between 2011 and 2013, more than 2,300 wildlife-related items were seized. They included live animals, plants, ivory, leather products, and sandalwood.

Between 2012 -2013, the UAE authorities reported the biggest haul of ivory with 500 pieces confiscated.

Brigadier Ali Atteq bin Lahej, director, airports security department at Dubai Police, said the number of ivory seized from passengers transiting through Dubai airports has increased. There were 20 hauls over the last three years and they included more than 1,500 ivory pieces of different size and shape. Some of the tusks were more than two metres long.

Dr Al Sayyid Ahmed Mohammed, regional manager of IFAW, said the drive comes in the wake of an unprecedented level of elephant poaching in Africa. Poachers have also killed guards at wildlife reserves in Africa.

Jamal Al Hai, first vice-president, international affairs and communication at Dubai Airports, also attended the Press conference.