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Thai customs seize two tonnes of African ivory

by Staff Writers
Bangkok (AFP) Feb 25, 2010
Thai customs officials seized more than two tonnes of ivory being stored at Bangkok's main international airport en route from Dubai to Laos, a customs department statement said Thursday.

The officials, acting on a tip-off, searched a transit cargo warehouse at Suvarnabhumi airport on Wednesday evening and found 239 African elephant tusks, the statement said.

The haul, weighing 2,075 kilos (4,600 pounds), was valued at 120 million baht (3.6 million dollars), it said. No arrests had been made in connection with the seizure.

The shipment flown on an Emirates flight from Dubai had been declared as telecommunications equipment and was due to be flown on to Laos, which borders Thailand.

Wildlife experts say Thailand is a commonly-used transit point for the illegal trafficking of animal parts, with African ivory often bound for China.

They say some 38,000 African elephants are killed each year for their tusks -- out of a total estimated population of half a million.

African nations are currently in dispute over whether to allow a new round of legal ivory sales, with a decision to be made by the UN's international wildlife protection body when it meets next month in Doha, Qatar.

Tanzania and Zambia are seeking permission from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to make exemptions from a 1989 ban on ivory sales.

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