Twenty five items believed to be elephant ivory, and the shell of a Hawksbill Turtle, were seized from an Auckland address last night following the execution of a search warrant.
The seizure was made by the Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG) a multi agency team with representatives from the Department of Conservation (DOC), Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the New Zealand Customs Service.
Some of the items seized at an Auckland address. They will be tested to confirm they are ivory.
The items seized last night will be forensically tested to confirm they are ivory and a Hawksbill Turtle shell. They include three carved tusks, six statues and a fan.
The seizure was made as the appropriate permits had not been obtained to import the suspected ivory items and turtle shell into New Zealand. A permit to import any specimen of endangered species is required under the Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989 which is administered by DOC. African and Asian elephants and Hawksbill turtles are classified as endangered species.
At the same time the WEG team was executing the search warrant in Auckland, officers from the Police National Wildlife Crime Unit and the United Kingdom Border Agency executed a search warrant at an address in Cheltenham in Gloucestershire in England.
Two men were arrested at the Cheltenham address on suspicion of the prohibited purchase of two elephant tusks and evading export restrictions.
A carved tusk and statue seized at the Auckland Mail Centre. Forensic tests confirm they are African elephant tusks. The operations in Auckland and England follow the interception of two parcels at the Auckland Mail Centre. Forensic testing confirmed that the parcels contained items carved from African elephant tusks. They were posted from Portugal and England. One parcel contained a carved ivory tusk and the other a statue of a woman’s head carved from ivory.
The parcels were seized as the appropriate permits had not been obtained to import the ivory products into New Zealand.
Dylan Swain, a senior investigator and DOC’s representative on the Wildlife Enforcement Group is grateful for the help DOC has received from MAF, Customs and WEG.
"African and Asian elephants are at high risk of extinction because poachers continue to kill them for their tusks despite a global ban on trading in ivory,” says Dylan Swain.
The ivory trade ban was imposed in 1989 by the 175 countries that are parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES). New Zealand became a party to CITES in 1989.
“We recognise that protecting threatened species from extinction requires countries around the world to work together,” says Dylan Swain.
“New Zealand needs international support protecting our endangered species from being exploited. So we have a responsibility to help protect threatened wildlife in other countries such as elephants and sea turtles.”
Two Auckland men are assisting the Wildlife Enforcement Group with their enquiries following last night’s seizure of the items that are being forensically tested to confirm they are elephant ivory and a Hawksbill Turtle shell.
- Both African and Asian elephants are classified as threatened species at high risk of extinction by the ICUN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) the world’s oldest and largest environmental network.
- CITES banned the international trade in ivory in 1989. It’s estimated 700,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory between 1979 and 1989 when the ban was implemented.
- It’s estimated there are around 600,000 African elephants and between 40,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants.
- Hawksbill Turtles are classified as threatened species facing an extremely high risk of extinction by the ICUN.
- It’s estimated there are about 8000 nesting female Hawksbill Turtles in the wild.
- The penalties for importing endangered wildlife specimens into New Zealand without a permit range from up to five years imprisonment and or fines of up to $100,000.