Ivory Smuggling: Concealment, routes and transportation methods 2015-2019

On 4 July 2017, Hong Kong Customs officers seized 7.2 tonnes of elephant ivory at the Kwai Chung Customhouse Cargo Examination Compound in Kowloon. At the time, it was described as the biggest recorded ivory seizure in the past 30 years. To put the shipment in context, it contained more than 1.5 times the total amount of ivory seized in Hong Kong in the preceding 3.5 years.

Despite the significance of the seizure, all the suspects who were initially arrested in Hong Kong were subsequently released without charge. While the details of their release have not been made public, it is assumed that there was insufficient evidence to charge those arrested in Hong Kong and that there was no collaboration between the authorities and their counterparts in Malaysia. Equally, no suspects were arrested in Malaysia, where the consolidation of the shipment took place.

Ivory trafficking routes >500 kg (August 2017 – July 2019).

In the intervening two years, it is clear that the ivory smuggling situation has further deteriorated. In 2019, several seizures were made containing huge volumes of ivory, with three cases exceeding the 7.2 tonnes ‘record breaker’ of July 2017.

Analysis by the Wildlife Justice Commission indicates that the composition of shipments containing ivory is increasing.

Why is the Wildlife Justice Commission releasing this report?

This snapshot analysis illustrates several changes in the way ivory has been smuggled over the past two years. While shipments are being detected less frequently consignments are getting larger, with the average weight trebling in two years. This, despite Wildlife Justice Commission intelligence indicating the street value of ivory has fallen dramatically.