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Ivory haul in transit to Vietnam seized in S.Africa

Seized ivory on display/FILE

Seized ivory on display/FILE

SOUTH AFRICA, Jul 3 – A shipment of ivory worth $330,000 was intercepted at Johannesburg airport on its way from Zimbabwe to Vietnam, South African officials said Friday, hailing it as one of the biggest recent finds.

The 267 kilogramme (588 pound) haul was hidden in boxes wrapped in plastic and labelled as handicrafts.

“A full inspection of the boxes led to customs officials discovering ivory tusks amongst shredded paper,” the customs service said in a statement, valuing the ivory at four million rand (293,000 euros, $330,000).

“No CITES (endangered species) permits were issued for the consignment, (it was) a clear attempt to smuggle the goods,” it said.

Officials gave no details on how many tusks were found in the seizure in the cargo area of OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday.

Zimbabwe has seen a spike in ivory poaching in recent years, with wildlife authorities in 2013 reporting that over 100 elephants had been killed by poisoning with cyanide in one month.

Elephant tusks and other body parts are prized in Asia and the Middle East for ornaments and use in traditional medicine.

The international trade in ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989. The population of African elephants has dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to about 600,000 now.

A case has been opened with the South African police for further investigation of the seized ivory.

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