Date: 27 July 2012
Sixty nine pieces of ivory have been seized from a Napier address by investigators from the Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG).
The ivory was seized by the WEG team on Wednesday (July 25) after executing a search warrant at the Napier property.
Seized carved ivory tusk
The warrant was issued after a carved elephant tusk addressed to the Napier property was intercepted at the International Mail Centre in Auckland. The tusk had been posted from France and did not have the required import permit.
The WEG team consists of representatives from the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Customs Service.
Forensic tests will be carried out to confirm the items seized - which include statues, carvings and pieces of tusk - are made from ivory from endangered elephants.
African and Asian elephants are classified as endangered species. A permit is required to import elephant ivory into New Zealand.
The tusk found at the International Mail Centre did not have the necessary permit. Inquiries are underway to establish the status of the ivory pieces seized from the Napier address. A Napier man is assisting WEG with these inquiries.
A ban on trading ivory was imposed in 1989 by 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.
WEG senior investigator Dylan Swain says countries need to work together to protect threatened species from extinction.
''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.
“Sales of illegal ivory have been escalating and tonnes of ivory have been seized by authorities worldwide in the last few months.”
“There has been a surge in demand for ivory in Asia and this is believed to be fuelling the illegal trade in elephant tusks,” says Dylan Swain.
- 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 before the ban was implemented.
- It’s estimated there are around 600,000 African elephants and between 40,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants.
- The maximum penalty for importing endangered wildlife specimens into New Zealand without a permit is five years imprisonment and or a fine of up to $100,000.
Nick Hirst, +64 9 307 4866 or +64 27 704 7773