8.8 tonnes of elephant ivory have just been seized in Singapore after Chinese customs tipped them off.
The street value is estimated at $12.9 million (£10.4 million).
Additionally, 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales were seized, an amount which would require an estimated 2,000 mammals to procure. The value being $35.7 million (£28.6 million).
The shipment which arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo was due to find it’s final stop in Vietnam, being falsely declared as timber.
The National Parks Board said in a statement:
Upon inspection, sacks containing pangolin scales and elephant ivory were found in one of the containers.
Everything seized will be destroyed.
While possibly the largest seizure made, it’s not he first, nor will it be the last. This year has seen 37.5 tonnes of pangolin scales being seized in Singapore alone.
Kim Stengert, chief communications officer for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Singapore, told Reuters:
Singapore has always been inadvertently implicated in the global ivory trade for two reasons: its global connectivity, as well as the presence of a small domestic market where pre-1990’s ivory can be legally sold.
Asian demands for pangolin scales sees it roots in ancient Chinese medicine, while ivory has commonly been used in medicine and ornamentally.
Smugglers could face a fine of up to 500,000 Singapore dollars (£295,000) and even two years in prison.
Some however are against the seize being destroyed as they suggest it would make the demand even more valuable to poachers and traffickers, while others demand it being destroyed just like any other illegal contraband.
A behavioral economics theory cited by Dan Stiles could be applied.
This would indicate that as stockpiles are burned, the public theory would stand that ivory will be perceived as rarer that it actually is, pushing up the market value.
The saddest and most trying issue is the lack of evidence in these raids.
In 2014, Karl Mathiesen wrote in The Guardian:
No-one (outside of the trafficking syndicates) really understands how the Chinese ivory trade works. Hence the inability to assess the effect of releasing 102 tonnes of legal ivory into the market in 2008. The world seems to be acting on hunches, rather than data.
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