Customs officials at Zurich Airport have seized 262kg of ivory – a record haul – sent by three Chinese men from Dar es Salam, Tanzania.
Switzerland’s customs officials said on Tuesday that the ivory, which was found during a security check on July 6 and packed in eight suitcases, had an estimated black market value of about CHF400,000 ($413,000).
The ivory had been sawn into pieces to fit into the suitcases and was accompanied by one kilogram of lions’ fangs and claws. The traffickers could face heavy fines, the officials said, estimating that the ivory came from 40 to 50 elephants.
A global ivory trade ban went into effect in 1989 after Africa’s elephant population halved from 1.2 million to 600,000. But illegal trade continues, with demand strong in China, other Asian states and the United States.
In recent years, poachers have killed tens of thousands of elephants annually to meet demand for ivory in Asia. Every day in Africa some 100 elephants are killed by poachers.
In South Africa, home to most of the world’s rhinos, more than 1,200 were reported poached last year for their horns, which also fetch big money in Asia. Lions are designated as vulnerable on an international “red list” of species facing threats.
On Thursday the United Nations General Assembly called on all countries to step up their efforts to tackle illicit poaching and trafficking in wildlife amid global uproar over the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.
A Zimbabwean court charged a professional hunter with failing to prevent an American from unlawfully killing Cecil, in a case that has triggered widespread revulsion at trophy hunting.
The UN resolution urges states to “take decisive steps at the national level to prevent, combat and eradicate the illegal trade in wildlife, on both the supply and demand sides, including by strengthening the legislation necessary for the prevention, investigation and prosecution.”
It asks UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report to the General Assembly on the global status of illicit trafficking in wildlife and to consider appointing a special envoy “to promote awareness and galvanise international action”.
swissinfo.ch with agencies