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Blood Ivory Surges – Major Seizure in Hong Kong

Customs authorities in Hong Kong have seized over 1,000 kg of African ivory worth almost $1.5m. This concealed shipment of 779 tusks is the third largest seizure in just three months and was smuggled by sea from Kenya via Malaysia. A routine x-ray scan of a shipping container reported to contain “archaeological stones” revealed the tusks hidden in five wooden crates under valueless rocks. Hong Kong is an important trade and logistics hub and authorities will not tolerate being taken advantage of by ivory smugglers. On 20 October 2012, customs officials found nearly four tonnes of ivory in two shipments worth almost $3.5m. This bust was followed by another seizure of over 1 tonne the next month. The resurgence in the trade in African ivory is driven by increasing demand in China and Thailand for jewelry and ornamental items. China is building roads, bridges, canals, dams and oil fields in Africa. The new headquarters of the African Union in Ethiopia was built and funded by China and stands as a monument of their increasing dominance on the continent. This dominance and unparalleled access to people and markets is fueling this resurgence in the ivory trade and the widespread slaughter of African elephants. Armed militia in Africa have been finance by ivory, oil, diamonds and precious minerals for over 150 years and militias like the “Janjaweed” and “Lord’s Resistance Army” have been recently linked with people buying and commissioning ivory from China and Japan. In 2012, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) said that elephant poaching levels were at their highest levels in a decade and recorded ivory seizures are at their highest levels since 1989.


Chris John, Editor-In-Chief of National Geographic Magazine, explains: “Every year at least 25,000 elephants are killed by poachers for their tusks to feed the hunger of ivory collectors and the market for religious objects. The slaughter is massive and accelerating. The very existence of these magnificent beasts is at risk… Elephant poaching declined after the 1989 ban on ivory sales, but that trend has now reversed…” Over 600 rhinos were killed in southern Africa in 2012… Their horns hacked off by poachers when they were still alive. The bushmeat trade is booming throughout Africa. Hundreds of thousands of wild African grey parrots have been captured and shipped off to emerging markets. Lions are disappearing. Mountain gorillas are almost beyond help. There are less than 300 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild. Only four northern white rhino from northern and eastern Africa remain in captivity. African elephants now occupy a fraction of their original distributional range and their Asian counterparts are restricted to small, isolated pockets. We are standing on the precipice of a mass extinction and Africa is just about to be lost forever. We should have hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into a collective effort to save the remaining wild elephants and rhinos on earth. We are fascinated by the fossils we find in the ground and gaze in wonder at them in our museums. Now we seem intent on creating our own as part of the most devastating mass extinction of all time. In many ways the bones of dinosaurs wired together in the entrance hall of a natural history museum are far more accessible to the majority of people than a forest elephant in the Congo forests. I do not know why you should care about a wild elephant, but I do and believe in my heart that you should too… Please watch this report by Sky News and read the National Geographic article by Bryan Christy in the November 2012 issue.


Text: Chris Johns / Photo: I. M. Chait
"This 44-inch-long Chinese phoenix, carved in the 1920s, is one of a pair of tusks that sold in the U.S. for $24,400. (Text: Chris Johns / Photo: I. M. Chait)


Art is beautiful. Art speaks to the very essence of culture and transcends race, country and social status. Art shows us just how amazing we human beings can really be… I have picked up many small pieces of ivory in the African bush and to better understand our human obsession with this valuable commodity have tried to carve and work with it. The yellow surface quickly gives way to a pure white “ivory” that holds the knife blade and allows me to create wonderful flowing curves that can morph into sharp angles and sharp edges. I could never re-create the figurines I saw on my grandfather’s mantlepiece, but I can understand why people have been obsessed with it for millennia… This is, however, not a world of infinite abundance anymore. This is a different world with 7 billion people and not one inch that has not been touched in some way. We have seen our planet from space and can fly around the equator in a day. Our modern lives keep us focussed on money as our only way of being safe and this keeps us detached from the reality that the little piece of ivory on our bracelet is one of millions of pieces on millions of wrists. The only way these pieces of ivory were obtained was the bloody death of hundreds of thousands of elephants. There is no other way of sourcing ivory and we need to address the mass consumption of wildlife products as a global community of billions of people. I promise you that five minutes in the presence of a wild elephants will make you feel more alive than any piece of art ever will…


Steve Boyes
Please help us make sure that this little elephant that, has not even grown tusks yet, is able to grow up without the threat of being shot... This will be a global effort that all of us need to be involved in... (Steve Boyes)


  1. Karin Nelson
    March 11, 2015, 7:51 pm

    I fully support death to anyone caught involved in the ivory and rhino horn trade from poachers to buyers, transporters, sellers. No question, no trial….death. This has to stop! From this moment forward, ivory artifacts must also cease to have any value. Sales of ANYTHING made of ivory must be made illegal and stiff fines and jail for those who are caught buying or selling.

  2. Berry
    January 16, 2013, 5:25 pm

    The recent auction of ivory from a massive seizure was sold to one of the highest bidders being China. This sale has caused a huge demand for ivory and the consequences were a record number of elephants killed in 2012. Why this took place… I guess that answer is easy………money! The only way this addiction for ivory is going to stop is a world wide ban on ivory. It will not stop it completely but it will slow it down considerably and give elephants a fighting chance.

  3. Nancy Jones
    United States
    January 15, 2013, 10:12 pm

    I wonder if a GPS chip could be embedded into the elephants tusk? That would be a way to track where the tusks are, however it would not stop poachers. What about a GPS embedded into the elephants; better yet when the poachers are caught embed a GPS chip into them so as to know their where about’s at all times. This is the most horrible act of animal cruelty. These poachers also do the same thing to rhinos… :'(

  4. Sajid
    January 14, 2013, 7:18 am

    Leaves the question of what Kenya Wildlife Service is doing about this? I recently read that South African Authorities were planning to buy a Helicopter equipped with cameras that detects body heat to locate hiding poachers.Excellent move!Surely the Kenyan government can take up such initiatives!The only way to fight the poachers is through modern means and technology. BUT Let us not forget that a whole container can not leave the country unnoticed.

  5. HG
    South Africa
    January 11, 2013, 9:14 am

    Disgusting, but a huge blow to the illegal trade.
    Sadly it will make the lust for more to fill the new void continue the slaughter.
    It’s unlikely that 5 tonnes of Ivory in 3 months was ‘recently’ poached. My belief is that a large portion is stockpile ivory. Ivory that has remained under lock and key after the Cites ban. What the reporting fails to identify is where are the parks and government stockpiles and are they still under lock and key and are they in the same (or more) quantities?

    How are those roads and buildings being paid for? My educated guess is not just with mineral rights. Africa and Africans are opening up a new door worse than the colonialism of old…

  6. iwona
    January 10, 2013, 9:27 am

    Cant believe its real , cant stop crying …its so depresing
    how to stop them, why anybody is buing ivory !!!

  7. Sa
    January 6, 2013, 4:44 am

    One of the saddest stories I have ever read. Will humanity ever learn? God have mercy on us.

  8. matt steele
    United Kingdom
    January 5, 2013, 5:09 pm

    by the way all good for the capture – but i wanna see the mafia captured.. otherwise what does this mean – another 400 + creatures killed – go ahead im waiting very soon when they say all we have left is in zoos.. then what.. no tourism fuck all .. pathetic african government and aisan idiots..

  9. matt steele
    United Kingdom
    January 5, 2013, 5:06 pm

    saw a program on this a while ago and im so pissed off – when theres money involved mafia will do what ever it takes – killing just for art – how fucking pathetic – asian society get a fucking life – crafting a dead animal – crafting a mafia society -just fucking retarded..

  10. Susan
    January 5, 2013, 4:26 pm

    Thankfully this sordid trade is being watched and mitigated to some extent. It is horrible to hear that the demand has increased in recent years, but at least the authorities in some countries won’t stand for it. Excellent article.