Analysis: Current data shows significant changes in dynamics of ivory trafficking

The Wildlife Justice Commission’s Ivory Snapshot Analysis uses the most recent data from 2015 up to July 2019 on the volumes, routes, concealment and transportation methods of ivory from African ports to Asian entry points to show changes in the criminal dynamics of transnational ivory trafficking.

Verifying, analysing and reporting on the most current data is crucial to allow for the most accurate and informed overview of the trends on transnational organised crime, as this picture changes very rapidly.

Increase in volume

The analysis points out that even though the number of detected shipments containing ivory has decreased, the composition of consignments weighing over 500 kg is on the rise. Under CITES guidelines, any seizure of ivory of 500 kg or more is considered indicative of the involvement of organised crime.

The analysis shows that the volume of ivory being seized has increased by 124% during the last two years. This, despite our intelligence indicating a sharp downward trend in the street value of raw ivory.

Ivory Smuggling - number of seizures and commodity weights recorded

In the first half of 2019 alone, the 7.2 tonnes seizure record set in 2017 in Hong Kong was broken three times: twice in March, with 9.1 tonnes of ivory seized in Vietnam and 7.4 tonnes seized in China and in July, when an 8.8 tonnes stash was seized in Singapore.

Combination of pangolin scales and ivory in shipments

A significant change in the criminal activity around the transnational smuggling of ivory is an increase in the combination of shipments that contain both ivory and pangolin scales and that the proportion of pangolin scales has now surpassed the volume of ivory in shipments that combine both.

Ivory trafficking routes out of Africa move West

The analysis also shows a shift of activity in the origin of the smuggling from Eastern African ports to Western ones, while Vietnam remains the main port of entry for ivory into the Asian markets.

Ivory trafficking routes

The high volumes of detected shipments and the changes in the criminal behaviour around the smuggling of ivory confirm that this is a transnational organised crime problem. It requires the same updated analysis, investigative techniques and response as other transnational organised crimes to effectively dismantle the criminal networks profiting from it.

Read here: Ivory Smuggling: 2015 – 2019 – Concealment, routes and transportation methods