An African wildlife enforcement team arrested a group of business executives for trafficking at least 1.5 tons of elephant tusks to Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, according to counter-trafficking organization Freeland.
According to Bangkok-based NGO, multiple arrests made between July 28 and August 2 have concluded with the first court hearing for two of the accused in Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo.
Four men were originally arrested, while two were released after questioning over the past weekend.
The other two detainees own shipping companies based in the Republic of the Congo that are allegedly responsible for secretly moving large consignments of elephant tusks out of West Africa to Asia, including 1,493 kilograms seized in Vietnam in 2014.
The accused are also linked to a “Chinese business interest” suspected of placing the order, who may also be responsible for similarly massive shipments of elephant tusks seized by Thai, Vietnamese, and Singaporean authorities last year.
“Effective fighting of ivory smuggling on the African continent by bridging source, transit and destination countries, is our common responsibility,” said Bonaventure Ebayi, Director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), a regional wildlife enforcement body for Africa.
“No one is above the law and should face the full force of justice anytime or anywhere he was involved in a crime.”
Experts calculate that up to 50,000 elephants, or one every 10 minutes, was poached for their tusks in Africa last year alone to feed the commercial trade in ivory.
One tusk can fetch more than US$2,000 per kilo, after which a professional carver can increase a single tusk’s worth to more than $100,000 with his handiwork.
The poachers, according to ongoing investigations, are sponsored by organized crime syndicates based in Africa and Asia.