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Giant elephant tusks seized at Bangkok airport

Thai forensic experts work near confiscated elephant tusks after a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok
Image: The haul consisted of three large tasks and 31 fragments

Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of smuggled elephant tusks have been seized by authorities in Thailand.

The haul of ivory worth around 15 million Thai Baht (almost £345,000) and weighing 148kg (325 pounds) was discovered at Bangkok airport after it was flagged by officials.

The three large tusks and 31 tusk fragments from Nigeria were destined for China, where demand for ivory is still high despite a recent crackdown.

Officials said the size of the tusks show they were taken from at-risk African elephants. Discoloration suggests they have been in storage for a long time.

Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said: “From what I can tell, these ivory tusks were taken from very big elephants, and elephants of that size are now hard to find even in Africa.

Thai forensic experts work near confiscated elephant tusks after a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok
Image: Thailand is a major transit hub for smuggled tusks

“And judging from how the tusks look, they appear to have been taken a while ago. They weren’t hunted recently. They were taken and stored for a while before smugglers sent them out.”

The seized cargo has now been impounded as police try to identify the smugglers.

Despite laws to regulate the domestic ivory markets and criminalise the sale of African elephant ivory, Thailand is still considered a major transit hub for smuggled tusks.

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The Customs Department said last year Thai officials seized 510 elephant tusk fragments in four separate cases.

The biggest demand comes from China where the Government has tried to cut the trade by making the domestic sale of ivory illegal starting this year.

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