Detecting Illegal Wildlife Smuggling in Shipping Containers
Two recent news stories explore the issue of smuggling of wildlife products in shipping containers.
On 22 October, authorities in Hong Kong intercepted one of the largest shipments of illegal ivory in history — 1,209 elephant tusks and ivory ornaments weighing more than 8,400 pounds, according to the New York Times.
In a press release, the Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department described how the case unfolded. “Acting on information provided by Guangdong Customs, Hong Kong Customs monitored two suspicious containers shipped from Africa. On October 16, Customs officers located one container arriving from Tanzania which was declared as containing “plastic scrap.” Upon examination, the officers found 972 pieces of raw ivory tusks, weighing about 1,927 kilogrammes, and 1.4 kilogrammes of ivory ornaments inside 91 bags of plastics scraps, with an estimated value of about $13.5 million. On the following day, Hong Kong Customs inspected another container from Kenya which was declared as containing “roscoco beans”. Upon examination, a total of 237 pieces of raw ivory tusks, weighing about 1,884 kilogrammes, were found inside 50 bags of “roscoco bean”, with an estimated value of about $13.2 million.”
In another case, a British Columbia (Canada) Provincial Court convicted and fined Nam Bak Enterprises Limited for offences under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) on 9 October.A 2008 inspection of a sea-container in the Port of Vancouver resulted in the detention of $150,000 worth of American Ginseng (9 kg wild and 544 kg cultivated) as well as Gastrodia (a species of orchid). A permit to import these species is required. Nam Bak Enterprises received a total penalty of $50,000 for importing without a permit American Ginseng (wild and cultivated), a species listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Of that amount, the company must pay a $45,000 fine and $5,000 to Canada’s Environmental Damages Fund (EDF).