Traffic report:

Malaysia key conduit in global illegal ivory trade

A new TRAFFIC analysis points to Malaysia as the world's paramount ivory transit country, with its ports serving as a major gateway for the flow of tonnes of illicit ivory between Africa and Asia.

Ivory seizure records from January 2003 to May 2014 linked Malaysia to 66 confiscations worldwide totalling a massive 63 419 kg. Only 19 of the seizures were made in Malaysia. The remaining 47 occurred outside the country, mostly after shipments had passed undetected through Malaysia’s ports. ‘"The sheer volume of ivory flowing through Malaysia's ports has flagged it as a country of concern at the global level. Getting tough on the traffickers involved in smuggling ivory into Asia should be a top priority for national enforcement agencies,” said Kanitha Krishnasamy, author and Senior Programme Manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia. The vast majority of the 63 tonnes came from just 26 large-scale seizures. Large shipments and seizures, over 500 kg in weight, point to the potential involvement of organized criminal networks.

The report, Malaysia’s invisible ivory channel: An assessment of ivory seizures involving Malaysia from January 2003-May 2014 shows that the Malaysia-linked seizures involved the import, export and re-export of ivory from at least 23 countries and territories around the world. Particularly, it documents Malaysia’s progression over the years to the current unenviable position as the principal transit point for ivory sourced in Africa and redirected to Asia, especially Viet Nam, Hong Kong and China.
More than 30% of all seizures originated from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda—the three major exit points in Africa for the world’s illegal elephant ivory trade. Seizures also linked Malaysia to Kenya and Uganda in the trafficking of 23 rhino horns between August 2010 and December 2013. Malaysia has been implicated in further seizures beyond the study period involving at least five tonnes seized in Australia, Kenya, Thailand and Viet Nam after passing through the country. In July 2016, Malaysian authorities seized more than a tonne of ivory originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While commending this recent seizure, TRAFFIC urges Malaysia to intensify its collaboration and communication with ivory source and consumer countries and recommends authorities enhance their risk indicator and profiling techniques to detect high-risk shipments. Malaysia is one the eight countries of ‘primary concern’ that had been identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) as being most heavily implicated in the illegal trade in ivory, requiring Malaysia effectively to implement a National ivory Action Plan (NIAP) to address the situation. “With no open ivory markets, Malaysia’s role is purely one of transit. It can extricate itself from this situation if its National Ivory Action Plan focuses efforts on tracking and dismantling the criminal networks using Malaysia as a transit point,’’ said Krishnasamy.

Efforts by all countries subjected to the NIAP process to tackle this problem, including Malaysia, will come under scrutiny at the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES which takes place from 24th September-5th October 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The fate of seized ivory in Malaysia

Since 2003, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department has made 19 seizures. According to Malaysian Customs Department director-general Khazali all seized tusks are kept by the department to facilitate investigations. Once the investigation is completed, the ivories will be handed over to the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan) for their disposal. Britain-based group Nature Alert had raised questions on the outcome of the seizures, particularly on where the tusks are. Nature Alert claims that no independent audit has been carried out on the seized ivory and questions why the illicit stocks have not been destroyed as has been done in China. Nature alert also criticised the authorities for failing to make any arrests. Ivory is on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and so cannot be traded. In response to the allegations, Khazali says: “The allegations are baseless. For what should we keep the stocks? All I have to say is that we are taking action to stop the illegal trade, are keeping an eye on ivory trading on our shores, and are serious about seizures. We want to make it clear that Malaysia is no springboard for this business to flourish.” Download full report here
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Parties of 'primary concern'

The categorisation as party of ‘primary concern’ with regard to a country’s role as source, transit or destination country of illegally traded ivory is based on ETIS and MIKE analyses submitted to each Conference of Parties in line with Resolution Conf. 10.10. The recommendation for the development of a national ivory action plan, however, was made by the Standing Committee. Parties of ‘primary concern’ have not been directed by the Standing Committee to make their national ivory action plans public.

  • China and Hong Kong SAR
  • Kenya
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Thailand
  • Uganda
  • United Republic of Tanzania
  • Viet Nam

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