NParks to crush 9 tonnes of illegal ivory worth $18 million

Staff Writer, Singapore
·Editorial Team
·4-min read
The nine tonnes of ivory were due to be crushed on Tuesday (11 August) to commemorate World Elephant Day. (PHOTOS: YouTube screengrab)
The nine tonnes of ivory were due to be crushed on Tuesday (11 August) to commemorate World Elephant Day. (PHOTOS: YouTube screengrab)

SINGAPORE — The National Parks Board (NParks) will be crushing nine tonnes of illegal ivory, worth $18 million, on Tuesday (11 August).

Held to commemorate World Elephant Day on Wednesday, the event – the largest to be held globally in recent years – will be live-streamed on the NParksSG YouTube page.

“The destruction of the ivory seized from various shipments in past years will prevent it from re-entering the market and will disrupt the global supply chain of illegally traded ivory,” said NParks in a news release.

It added that the event also “demonstrates Singapore’s strong determination and commitment to combat the illegal trade in wildlife”.

Also announced was the launch of Singapore’s first-ever Centre for Wildlife Forensics (CWF), which aims to draw on NParks’ expertise to strengthen the country’s role in combatting the illegal wildlife trade.

Record seizure

The illegal ivory to be crushed was seized in four cases, dating back to January 2014, with two major hauls from last year making up the bulk of the material.

On 3 April last year, NParks along with Singapore Customs and the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority found 177kg of cut up and carved elephant ivory – worth about $120,000 – while checking on a 40-foot container at the Pasir Panjang Export Inspection Station.

Another 12.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, worth about $52.3 million, were also uncovered. The shipment was on its way from Nigeria to Vietnam, said NParks.

On 21 July last year, another 40-foot container – this one destined for Vietnam after leaving the Democratic Republic of Congo – was inspected. Inside, 8.8 tonnes of raw elephant ivory, worth about $17.6 million, and 11.9 tonnes of pangolin scales, worth about $48.6 million, were found.

This was the largest ivory seizure in Singapore to date.

“Singapore’s use of rigorous risk management and indicators has proven to be highly effective in the screening of suspicious cargo and passengers.

“The significant seizures made by authorities in Singapore underscore the efficiency of this approach, and the intelligence reports generated in this regard have also supported actions by other parties,” said Ivonne Higuero, secretary-general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat.

“I wish to applaud your government’s work in capacity building,” she added.

New tools

With the CWF, the Singapore authorities will be able to utilise new methods – such as next generation DNA sequencing and mass spectrometry – in analysing seized items. This will help provide more detailed insights into the the origin of the species that have been poached.

“Such information can help international organisations and source countries to undertake further investigation and enforcement action against poachers and smugglers,” said NParks.

The CWF will focus on wildlife most severely impacted by the illegal wildlife trade, namely elephants, rhinoceros, pangolins, sharks and rays, and songbirds, the board added.

Using specimens, it will also be able to study the population genetics of elephants and pangolins. Methods such as parentage testing will also be conducted to verify the captive-bred status of ornamental songbirds.

Information gathered from these studies will be shared with source countries and will help international organisations, local enforcement agencies and conservation organisations to focus their efforts on regions where poaching is rife.

In terms of fauna, the Singapore Xylarium will also be established, and it will comprise a collection of literature on timber identification, timber samples, cross sections of timber samples, and a timber DNA library.

“The in-house identification of timber species using a combination of wood morphology, genetics and chemical analysis will enable Singapore to investigate and prosecute the illegal trade in CITES timber more efficiently,” said NParks, which added that it will share information with international groups or the source countries where the illegal timber originates from.

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