Image via the AVA's release
Customs officials in Singapore announced today that they'd seized around $2 million worth of ivory, in what is the largest bust in the country since 2002. How much ivory is that? Officials said the total haul weighed in at a whopping 1.8 metric tons.
“Acting on a tip-off, AVA and Singapore Customs conducted a joint inspection on a shipment that was declared as „waste paper‟ on 23 January. We found 1,099 pieces of raw ivory tusks packed in 65 gunny sacks,” Gerald Neo, executive manager of the Singaporean Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's Quarantine & Inspection Department, said in a release (PDF).
The seizure still pales in comparison to the 2002 bust, in which a shipment of 6 metric tons of ivory from Africa was seized. 532 full tusks and 40,180 pieces of ivory were found in six wooden crates labeled as marble statues. But the two busts also offer proof that the ivory trade, like the rest of the wildlife trade, is positively booming: Despite containing three times as much ivory, the 2002 bust was then valued at about $1.2 million.
It feels like I've typed this about a milion times by now, but record-setting busts have not stopped elephant poaching from hitting record levels. (The same goes for rhino, the trade of which has positively exploded in recent years.) CITES, the international commission tasked with regulating the world's wildlife, noted in a report last year that law enforcement operations, despite being seizing previously-unseen amounts of wildlife products, have still yet to put a damper on the trade. The BBC said that an estimated 25,000 elephants were killed in 2011.
The trade has become so entrenched that the UN Security Council is now stepping in to investigate whether the wildlife trade is funding terrorist groups. In Africa, elephant poaching has become a lucrative source of income for militant groups, while the Asian half of the trade is dominated by organized crime. So, yes, it's a positive that Singapore is slowing the flow of illicit ivory through its borders. But it's still not enough to stop the trade.