From the BBC website
An art dealer has been arrested and accused of smuggling a tonne of African ivory into the US for sale at his Philadelphia store.
Victor Gordon, 68, paid a conspirator to fly to Africa, purchase raw ivory and have it carved to his specifications, prosecutors said.
The conspirator dyed the carvings in order to make them appear old before smuggling them into the US, they said.
Traffic in ivory is tightly restricted under US and international law.
There, officials displayed for reporters intricately carved whole tusks and smaller sculptures and figurines that agents had seized from Mr Gordon’s shop and from his customers.
Elephants are protected under the 1975 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Ivory more than 100 years old can be sold can be legally imported into the US.
“The amount of the elephant ivory allegedly plundered in this case is staggering and highlights the seriousness of the charged crimes,” United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Loretta Lynch said.
“We all have a responsibility to protect endangered species, both for their sake and for the sake of our own future generations.”
Ms Lynch’s office described the seizure of the ivory in the case as one of the largest in US history.
According to an indictment filed in federal court in New York, Mr Gordon paid an unidentified co-conspirator $32,000 (£19,500) to undertake several trips to purchase “raw” ivory in central and west Africa between May 2006 and April 2009.
The co-conspirator had the ivory carved and stained to disguise its newness, then smuggled it into the US through JFK International Airport in New York.
It was then delivered to Mr Gordon’s retail store in Philadelphia, according to the indictment.
In April 2009, federal fish and wildlife officers seized hundreds of ivory tusks and carvings from Mr Gordon’s shop in Philadelphia.
As the investigation progressed over the next year-and-a-half, agents seized more pieces from his customers in the states of New York, Missouri, Kansas, California and Missouri.
Mr Gordon was arrested on Tuesday and charged with 10 counts of violating US anti-ivory smuggling laws, including statutes aimed at protecting endangered species and enforcing the CITES.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
- Officials seize one ton of smuggled elephant ivory – Reuters (news.google.com)
- Philadelphia art store owner charged with smuggling African ivory (cnn.com)
- City Room: Art Dealer Charged With Smuggling Ivory Into U.S. (cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Phila. man charged in ivory trafficking probe (philly.com)
- Feds: Pa. shop-owner smuggled ton of banned ivory (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Art Dealer Arrested In ‘Staggering’ African Elephant Ivory Seizure (blogs.wsj.com)
- Art Dealer Charged After “One of the Largest American Seizures of Elephant Ivory on Record” (treehugger.com)
- African elephants : Burning of ivory sends a warning to poachers (environmentaleducationuk.wordpress.com)
- Kenya burns ivory to end poaching (bbc.co.uk)
The International Herald Tribune reports on the trade that literally killing creatures
MOSCOW — The 26 elk lips were just the tip of the pile. The items the Russian customs agents reported seizing Tuesday were exotic even by the standards of Russia’s border with China, where wildlife smuggling is rampant: 1,041 bear paws, lynx fur, unspecified claw parts and five tusks from the extinct woolly mammoth.
Officials said they discovered the cargo after a dog alerted them to the contents in the bed of a Chinese driver’s seemingly empty truck. On closer examination, officials found a secret compartment with the cache of contraband.
“The illegal cargo weighing almost 1.4 tons was detained by border guards and customs officials” a statement explained. The items were individually wrapped, the statement said, though it did not say if the compartment was refrigerated. The elk lips alone weighed 143 pounds.
Smuggling is generally blossoming in Russia’s Far East. The long border with China, closed for decades, is now open for travel and trade.
“China is a vacuum cleaner for Siberian wildlife,” said Aleksei L. Vaisman, a senior coordinator for Traffic Europe-Russia, which is sponsored by the conservation group WWF, which monitors trade in wild animals. The largest cache of bear paws he knew of previously was 787 paws (one paw shy of 197 full sets of four).
As Russian border agents using dogs have become more adept at catching small-time traffickers, smugglers have been compelled to risk large shipments, he said. The large number reported Tuesday (from about 260 bears) were most likely accumulated by brokers who bought them from hunters over the winter, he said. A set of four brings the hunters about $50.
Bear paws are a ritual dish for Chinese, elk lips a delicacy. Also smuggled daily, for food or medicine, are bear gallbladders, frogs, deer antlers and the genitals of spotted deer. The bones of highly endangered Amur tigers are sought for their aphrodisiac qualities.
The mammoth ivory poses an unusual set of legal and ethical issues.
The tusks are more abundant than many people in the West realize. Encased in an upper layer of Siberia’s permafrost are the remains of an estimated 150 million mammoths that lived from 3,600 to 400,000 years ago. The parts surface in the spring thaw across vast stretches of Russia’s far north and are routinely collected. Most are exported — legally — to China, South Korea and Japan to be carved into personal stamps used in place of signatures on documents.
Russia, though, requires an export license. This is intended to ensure that traders send tusks with possible scientific value — like prehistoric slaughter marks or signs of ancient disease — to researchers. Generally, conservationists concerned about the illegal ivory trade from Africa into Asia encourage buyers to turn to the legal trade from Siberia of ivory from mammoths.
Still, it was unclear how the tusks were hidden in the truck intercepted at a border crossing in the town of Blagoveshchensk or how the smuggler had obtained them. The tusks are often cut up and sold by the kilogram.
- Over one ton of smuggled animal parts intercepted in Russia’s Far East (rt.com)
- Kenyan police seize 1 ton of ivory at airport (sfgate.com)
- Kenyan police seize 1 ton of ivory at airport (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Thailand seizes hundreds of elephant tusks (cbc.ca)
- Thai police raid secret ivory carving workshops (sfgate.com)
- Russian and Chinese leaders meet in Moscow (rt.com)
- Thais seize 2 tons of ivory in largest bust ever (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- The view from St Petersburg: John Faraci (rt.com)
- Thais seize 2 tons of ivory in largest bust ever (sfgate.com)
Live turtles and other rare reptiles were stuffed into four suitcases and smuggled into Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport. The Guardian reports
Thai Customs have found 451 turtles worth 1 million baht (£20,000) stashed in suitcases offloaded from a passenger flight from Bangladesh, in the latest seizure of live animals at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport.
Turtles of varying sizes worth around 2,000 baht apiece in Thai markets, and seven false gavials – a type of freshwater crocodile worth 10,000 baht each,were found on Thursday in small bags packed into cases after authorities received a tip-off that a known trafficker was travelling to Thailand.
The alleged trafficker, a Bangladeshi national, did not collect the luggage and fled on arrival in Bangkok, customs officials said.
The discovery was the biggest since September last year, when 1,140 turtles were found by Customs in a single day. A further 218 were seized a month later.
Customs officials at Suvarnabhumi often seize reptiles and small animals in luggage.
They found a two-month old tiger cub in a bag last August, which was concealed by stuffed tiger toys and bound for Iran.
Prasong Poontaneat, director-general of Thailand’s Customs department, said it was likely the turtles were destined for Bangkok’s Chatujak market, a sprawling mass of 11,000 stalls and shops that has a dedicated pet section where endangered species are sometimes sold.
Although Thailand has been at the forefront of a regional effort to combat wildlife trafficking, the country’s multiple airports, sea ports and road network make it a major transit point for other destinations.
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Treehugger reports on the totally avoidable tragedy that is China‘s ‘living’ trinkets. These, dear readers, are not some ‘foreign tale’ but a very real issue!
Keyring ornaments are perhaps the most useless item you’ll ever carry in your pocket or stuff in your purse — but now, thanks to an increasingly popular item being sold in China, it can easily be the cruelest, too. For the price you might expect to pay for some kitschy trinket, Chinese street vendors are selling live animals, permanently sealed in a small plastic pouch where they can survive for a short while as someone’s conversation piece. Apparently, these unimaginably inhumane keyrings are actually quite popular — and worst of all, it’s totally legal.
ccording to The Global Times, these keyring accessories containing live animals are widely available and sold publicly in subway stations and on sidewalks. Potential buyers (read as animal-abusers) have the choice between a living Brazil turtle or two small kingfish, sealed in an airtight package along with some colored water. One vendor claimed that the trapped creatures “can live for months inside there” because the water contains “nutrients,” though veterinarians have already disputed this claim.
“I’ll hang it in my office, it looks nice and brings good luck, ” said one customer who purchased the turtle.
As the cruel trinkets continue to gain in popularity, thankfully so to have the voices of animal rights supporters in opposition to the inhumane treatment of the animals they contain. “To put a living thing inside a sealed and confined space for profit is immoral and pure animal abuse,” Qin Xiaona, director of the NGO Capital Animal Welfare Association, told the Global Times.
Even some right-thinking passersby are trying to do their part in saving the animals’ lives where they can. “I bought one to free it. It looks so miserable,” said one woman, unnamed by the Times.
Despite the fact that the selling of animals as keyring ornaments is a clear-cut case of animal cruelty, it is actually entirely within the law. Chinese law prohibits the sale of wild animals — a designation which evidently does not apply to the Brazil turtles and kingfish being sold.
For the time being, in lieu of legislation which may or may not come to pass outlawing the sale of living creatures as objects of amusement, Xiaona suggests people use their better sense to squelch the trade. “If nobody buys it, the market will die,” she says.
Sadly, it is likely that so too will the animals which have already been sealed in their colorful, transparent tombs — gasping for the final breath of air they’ve been packaged with, as they peer out to a world in which their lives are considered essentially worthless. And in such a dark hour, it’s hard not to believe our very humanity awaits a similar fate.
How a YouTube created a real problem for real wildlife
The huge round eyes of the slow loris have made the species a YouTube hit – but experts are now warning that their online popularity has led to an increase in trafficking and cruelty.
Slow lorises are found in south-east Asia, where poachers take them from the wild and sell the animals in markets for as little as £10 a time.
Many eventually end up in Japan, where they can fetch prices as high as £3,500.
Chris Shepherd of Traffic southeast Asia, which campaigns against the trade in primates, said: “The only reason the loris isn’t biting the person holding it in the video is because it has had its teeth ripped out with pliers.”