Dubai: The UAE scored a major victory in its fight against wildlife trafficking that is slaughtering untold numbers of African elephants for their ivory to be sold on the black markets in Far East countries.
As part of a major crackdown by Dubai Customs and Dubai Police in recent years, 1,849 pieces of ivory were intercepted at Dubai International Airport in the latest seizure, a police official said on Tuesday.
Despite the best attempts by authorities around the world, ivory continues to be illegally trafficked.
In December 2017, China completely shut down its ivory carving factories and outlawed the ivory industry following a highly lauded 2015 agreement with the United States government to end the ivory trade in a push to save the last remaining wild elephant populations in Africa.
Wild elephants number less than 500,000 and 10 per cent of the continental herd are estimated to be killed by poachers every year.
Brigadier Ali Atiq Bin Lahej, director of the General Department of Airport Security at Dubai Police, said the ivory shipment was hidden in boxes from an undisclosed African country.
“The pieces were painted in black and hidden in boxes with shoe tags. They were trying to deceive the officers but Dubai Police are well trained and can foil any attempt to smuggle forbidden materials,” Brig Bin Lahej said.
Police said that the shipment was caught in the transit area of the Dubai airport and it was going to an Asian country known for trading in ivory.
Brig Bin Lahej said police are increasing their efforts in the battle against elephant poaching and warning transit passengers that it is illegal to carry ivory.
Police will keep reminding those travelling through Dubai International Airport that wildlife protection laws forbid the transport of ivory across international borders.
As ivory smuggling mostly follows a route from Africa to the Far East, Brig Bin Lahej said Dubai’s location makes it a transit point.
“As Dubai airports are at the crossroads between Asia and Africa, we have the ability to detect smuggling attempts. We are focused on transit points to ensure ivory is not smuggled,” Brig Bin Lahej said.
Under the UAE law, people caught smuggling endangered animals or animal parts face jail sentences and fines.
Police said that they will hand over the confiscated ivory pieces to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment for them to be destroyed.