Thursday, August 27, 2015

Keep ivory smugglers where they belong: In jail

Dubai: More than 620kg of ivory worth Dh5 million was seized at Dubai International Airport last month, the General Administration of Airport Security at Dubai Police said on Tuesday.

The ivory, seized from five different smugglers who were all coming form African countries, was destined for countries in America and Asia. They were arrested while transiting through Dubai Airport.

Ivory trade is internationally banned according to the CITES convention, which the UAE joined in 1990. The illegal trade has led to the endangerment of various species, including Asian and African elephants, from which ivory is harvested from. Earlier this year, Airport Security handed over more than 300kg of raw ivory to the Ministry of Environment and Water.

Captain Khalid Mohammad Noor, acting director of the Airport Police Department, said: “We do what we can to prevent the illicit trade of ivory and the rest of the substances listed in local and international laws.”

Noor said officers have been aptly trained to handle such crimes. “Our officers attend specialised workshops to help them deal with such situations. The workshops are organised by the Ministry of Environment and Water.”

According to him, there are strict penalties in place for those who attempt to smuggle ivory. “The ivory trade causes death of tens of thousands of elephants every year. The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that almost 50,000 elephants are killed annually to meet the growing demand for ivory.”

Awareness campaigns against ivory sumggling are held annually by the airport security in cooperation with the ministry and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “We hold campaigns at airport terminals every year,” he said, “they are dedicated to raise awareness about the dangers and effects of the ivory trade and the subsequent risk of extinction of the targeted animals.”

Brigadier Abdullah Hussain Khan, director of the General Administration of Airport Security, said active role of Dubai Police in fighting the trade is contributing to preservation of wildlife. “Dubai Police is doing its part to help protect the plants and animals that are threatened with extinction,” he said, “it is in our principles to thwart smuggling attempts.”

Dubai Customs recently told Gulf News that intelligence reports by UAE authorities, Interpol and IFAW are infiltrating illegal ivory trade networks and stemming the flow of elephant tusks through major transit hubs such as Dubai.

Officials said more than 1,500 ivory seizures by Dubai Customs between 2011 and 2014. There was only one ivory seizure made in Dubai in the first six months of this year.

At an annual 10 per cent poaching rate, what’s left of wild elephants in Africa could be decimated in as little as 10 years. –End-

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