x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Smugglers of ivory used Emirates

More than two tonnes of ivory shipped on an Emirates Airline cargo flight was seized by customs officers in Bangkok.

More than two tonnes of ivory shipped on an Emirates Airline cargo flight was seized by customs officers in Bangkok. Customs officials said the haul, consisting of 239 African elephant tusks worth 120 million baht (Dh13m), was discovered in a storage facility at Suvarnabhumi Airport in the Thai capital. Acting on a tip, officers seized two pallets that had been labelled as mobile phone parts. They had arrived from the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and were destined for Laos. Emirates cargo flights between Nairobi and Bangkok usually stop in Dubai.

It was Thailand's biggest ivory seizure. Reports said a Thai national had been detained. An Emirates spokesman said yesterday: "We can confirm we shipped the consignment in question from Nairobi to Bangkok. "It is strictly against our policy to carry cargo illegally into any country. The cargo in question had been misdeclared 'telecom equipment' by the shipper in Nairobi, and was subsequently intercepted by Customs in Bangkok."

The airline has launched an internal investigation and said it was co-operating fully with Thai authorities. The UAE is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), which banned all international ivory trade in 1989. Cites representatives are due to meet in Doha for two weeks, starting on March 13. Traffic, a British-based organisation that monitors international wildlife trade networks, recently released a report which said the illegal ivory trade had been steadily increasing since 2004. Thailand was cited as one of the three most heavily implicated countries; the other two are Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Richard Thomas, communications co-ordinator for Traffic, said: "Thai authorities have made a commitment to set up an enforcement action so this seizure will be a good step forward for them. Next week we will launch an awareness campaign at Bangkok airport." aseaman@thenational.ae * With agencies