Tusks Seized by DRC Authorities:
One and a half tons of elephant tusks have been discovered by authorities in the south-eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Legal and environmental experts have classified the ivory seizure as one of Africa’s largest hauls in recent years. The ivory, weighing 1,500 kilograms, was found in the Haut-Katanga province. On the international market, the tusks are worth $6 million.
According to a legal official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to his participation in an active inquiry, officers found the smuggled tusks aboard vehicles in Lubumbashi on Saturday, May 14th. Police have apprehended five suspects, while two of the suspects fled after being interrogated. The anonymous official also went on to say that the haul weighed 1.5 tons.
As Lieutenant Chris Kamonge, a security official in the Haut-Katanga province, explained, “Two people have been arrested by police while in possession of 1,500 kilograms of ivory. Those arrested said they were not the ones who killed the elephants. They said they had been given the ivory by those who killed the elephants to look for a market for it.”
The ivory’s origin and planned final destination are unknown. A lawyer for a consortium of environmental organizations, Sabin Mande, stated that he observed 18 bags of confiscated ivory in the Lubumbashi state prosecutor’s office on Wednesday, May 18th. According to him, the contraband amounts to approximately 80 to 100 slain elephants. He said, “We arrested the ones who were looking for a market to sell the ivory and not those who killed the elephants. It is unfortunate that we have not nabbed those who took the ivory to the city of Lubumbashi.”
More insights on seized tusks…
This is one of the largest interceptions in Africa in recent years. Kenyan authorities made multiple seizures in 2013, including one weighing four tons. In 2014, Togolese authorities also seized four tons of ivory in a single week.
Elephants have long been slaughtered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their ivory. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency, a UK-based non-governmental organization, officials in the Democratic Republic of the Congo discovered 8 metric tons of tusks in investigations between 2000 and 2014, while 20 metric tons were recovered between 2015 and 2019.
In the largest recent haul globally, Vietnamese officials discovered nearly nine tons of elephant ivory in a shipment hauling timber from the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville.
China and Southeast Asia are key markets for African ivory, which is mostly utilized in traditional medicine for alleged cures for a variety of ailments.
30,000 elephants were slaughtered per year at the height of the crisis, an average of 80 per day. According to WWF research, African elephant numbers have declined by 80% in the last century. The IUCN Red List classifies the African savanna elephant (Loxodonta africana) as endangered, while the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) is critically endangered and on the verge of extinction.
According to research conducted in 2021 by the Geneva-based NGO Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), poaching has decreased in recent years. One reason given for the drop is the disintegration of crime syndicates as a result of raids and arrests.