KUALA LUMPUR: A new analysis by TRAFFIC points to Malaysia as the world’s major ivory transit point, with its ports serving as a major gateway for the flow of tonnes of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia, says Kanitha Krishnasamy the author and the wildlife trade monitoring network’s senior programme manager in Southeast Asia.
She said the records of ivory seizure from January 2003 to May 2014 linked Malaysia to 66 confiscations worldwide totalling a massive 63,419kg. Only 19 of the seizures were made in Malaysia. The remaining 47 occurred outside the country, mostly after shipments had passed undetected through Malaysia’s ports.
“The sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia’s ports has flagged it as a country of concern at the global level. Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling of ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies,” she said at the two-day workshop on ‘Reporting Wildlife Crime and Malaysia’s Role in the Global Wildlife Trade’ held at the Malaysian Press Institute (MPI) here recently.
She added that the vast majority of the 63,419 tonnes came from just 26 large-scale seizures. Large shipments and seizures, over 500kg in total, point to the potential involvement of organised criminal networks.
She said the report showed that the Malaysia-linked seizures involved the import, export and re-export of ivory from at least 23 countries and territories around the world.
Particularly, it documents Malaysia’s progression over the years to the current unenviable position as the principal transit point for ivory sourced in Africa and redirected to Asia, especially Viet Nam, Hong Kong and China.
“More than 30 per cent of all seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda – three major exit points in Africa for the world’s illegal elephant ivory trade. Seizures also linked Malaysia to Kenya and Uganda in the trafficking of 23 rhino horns between Aug 2010 and Dec 2013.
“Malaysia has been implicated in further seizures beyond the study period involving at least five tonnes seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Viet Nam after passing through the country,” she added.
In July this year, Malaysian authorities seized more than a tonne of ivory originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Just last week, 12 suspects were arrested in connection with the smuggling of 114 pieces of cut ivory and other wildlife parts, that were seized from premises in Malaysia.
“While commending the recent seizure, Traffic urges Malaysia to intensify its collaboration and communication with ivory source and consumer countries and recommends authorities to enhance their risk indicator and profiling techniques to detect high-risk shipments,” said Kanitha.
Malaysia is one of eight countries of ‘primary concern’ that has been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade of ivory, requiring Malaysia to effectively implement a National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) to address the situation.
“With no open ivory markets, Malaysia’s role is purely one of transit. It can extricate itself from this situation if its National Ivory Action Plan focuses efforts on tracking and dismantling the criminal networks using Malaysia as a transit point.”
She pointed out that efforts by all countries subjected to the NIAP process to tackle the problem, including Malaysia, would come under scrutiny at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES which will take place in Johannesburg, South Africa from Sept 24 – Oct 5.
Besides ivory, other wildlife being trafficked through Malaysia are tigers, pangolins, bears, snakes, clouded leopards, fresh water turtles, tortoises and owls.
The two-day workshop organised by MPI was attended by 22 participants from various media organisations and was conducted by Traffic, a wildlife trade monitoring network. It works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. Traffic is a strategic alliance of IUCN and WWF. For more information click to www.traffic.org
Meanwhile, when contacted yesterday, a spokesman from the Sarawak Forest Department said so far there has been no case in the state. “But we are monitoring our ports and airports constantly,” he said.