Custom-made smuggling vests used to smuggle ivory onto aircraft

Chinese demand is fuelling the ivory trade

Custom made vests are used by smugglers to hide ivory as they transit through airports, a trafficking report has said. TRAFFIC
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Specially designed vests designed to conceal illicit goods are a common choice among ivory smugglers.

The adapted clothing assists illegal traders as they attempt to avoid detection passing through international airports.

Details of ivory smugglers' tactics and routes were revealed in a new report by the United States Agency for International Development.

It found the most prominent ivory smuggling route in 2017 was on flights from Harare, Zimbabwe, via Dubai, and then on to Hong Kong.

In 2016, Hong Kong customs officials swooped on a smuggler from the Ivory Coast who had transited through Dubai concealing clothing packed with hidden ivory.

The 26kg haul was worth an estimated HK$260,000 (Dh121,600) and was found in two custom made vests hidden in his hand luggage.


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Anyone caught bringing endangered species into China, including the smuggling of illegal ivory, can be prosecuted under the Protection of Endangered Species of Animals and Plants Ordinance. Those found guilty can face a maximum fine of HK$5 million (Dh2.3m) or a two-year jail term.

Source: USAid

“Passenger scanners are the most effective form of detection,” said Kinda Jabi of the Dubai office of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

“The demand in China is one of the major drivers for the trade.”

Ms Jabi said economic factors in poorer African countries were pushing communities to hunt and trade wildlife for a living.

Recommendations from industry experts to combat the illegal wildlife trade

Use of detection dogs at airports, ports or border checkpoints as the ‘gold standard’ of detection. A sharp sense of smell enables canines to do the same detection work of many customs agents.

Strict application of laws to produce tangible results in terms of confiscations, arrests and convictions worldwide. Raising detection levels may help deter some traffickers, with greater publicity of positive action and smuggler convictions needed.

Increased training of officials involved in potential confiscations at airports, ports and other border crossings as many do not fully understand the repercussions of illegal wildlife trade.

Greater public awareness in communities where the target animals live.