Thai authorities seize massive haul of African elephant ivory destined for China

Thai customs officials display seized ivory during a press conference in Bangkok Thailand Friday. Thai authorities seized 148 kilograms full elephant tusk and 31 tusk fragments originating from Nigeria destined for China worth over $469,800

Thai customs officials display seized ivory during a press conference in Bangkok Thailand Friday. Thai authorities seized 148 kilograms full elephant tusk and 31 tusk fragments originating from Nigeria destined for China worth over $469,800

Three elephant tusks and 31 ivory pieces weighing a combined 148 kilograms were seized at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok, Kulit Sombatsiri, director general of the customs department told a press conference.

The illegal ivory arrived on Dec 20 on Ethiopia Airlines flight ET618 from Addis Ababaand was consigned from Lagos, Nigeria.

The name and addresses on the packages were false, he added.

Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks and Wildlife, said that the large size of the seized tusks and its discolored state indicate that they were taken from large African elephants, which remain scarce in the wild, and have been kept in storage for a long period of time. They weren't hunted recently. "They were taken and stored for a while before smugglers sent them out".

Once a haven for smuggled ivory, Thailand has introduced new laws and amendments in 2014 and 2015 to regulate domestic ivory markets and criminalise the sale of African elephant ivory.

Since October 2016, Thai customs agents have seized more than 1 billion dollars' worth of smuggled endangered species and their products in 52 separate cases.

The haul of ivory worth around 15 million Thai Baht (almost £345,000) and weighing 148kg (325 pounds) was discovered at Bangkok airport after it was flagged by officials. Rhinoceros horns, pangolin scales, turtles and other exotic wildlife are also repeatedly smuggled through Thailand.