Rhino Horns, Tiger Teeth and 6 Tonnes of Ivory Seized in $18M Record Bust

The historic seizure, which came from Africa via Abu Dhabi, reaffirms Malaysia's status as a major regional wildlife trafficking hub.
Gavin Butler
Melbourne, AU
malaysia record ivory seizure
In addition to the elephant tusks, the shipment contained 100 kilograms of pangolin scales, 25 kilograms of rhino horns, and 300 kilograms of animal parts including bones, horns, and tiger teeth

Photo: Arif Kartono / AFP

Malaysian authorities have made the country's largest-ever ivory seizure, intercepting a shipment containing 6 tonnes of elephant tusks along with other rare animal parts, the Royal Malaysian Customs Department revealed on Monday.

Officials uncovered the illicit cargo hidden behind sawn timber inside a shipping container in Port Klang, on Malaysia's west coast, on July 10. In addition to the elephant ivory, the shipment contained 100 kilograms of pangolin scales, 25 kilograms of rhino horns, and 300 kilograms of animal parts including bones, horns, and tiger teeth.

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The total haul of rare animal parts, thought to have come from Africa via Abu Dhabi and bound for the Malaysian port of Pasir Gudang, is worth an estimated $18 million.

“This medley of threatened species in a single consignment is concerning,” Kanitha Krishnasamy, director for TRAFFIC Southeast Asia—a global NGO monitoring the trade in wild flora and fauna—said in a statement. “It certainly verifies the suspicion that criminals continue to use Malaysian ports to move contraband wildlife.”

Port Klang, Malaysia’s busiest port, was also the site of a major smuggling bust in March 2020, when authorities intercepted a shipping crate containing 6,160 kilograms of African pangolin scales—the largest such seizure to date at the time. In 2017, a container shipped from Port Klang to Hong Kong was seized on arrival and found to contain 7.2 tonnes of ivory—Hong Kong’s largest ivory seizure in over 30 years.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has previously highlighted Malaysia’s influential position in the global illegal wildlife trade, noting that it is not only a source country for internationally trafficked wildlife products, but also a transit hub via which rare and valuable animal parts are shipped to lucrative regional markets.

“Malaysia is a major transit point used by international organised crime networks to move wildlife products such as ivory, rhino horn, testudines, and pangolins from source countries to destination countries such as China, Vietnam, and Thailand,” the UNODC concluded in a 2017 report.

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“While many of the [threatened] species trafficked are not endemic to Malaysia, the country plays a crucial role in addressing this trafficking given that criminal networks have chosen it as a transit and consolidation point.”

Krishnasamy offered TRAFFIC’s support for ongoing investigations into the Africa-to-Asia wildlife trade, and applauded authorities for seizing the “​​menagerie of wildlife parts” in Port Klang earlier this month.

“Congratulations to the Royal Malaysian Customs for successfully intercepting what marks Malaysia’s largest ivory seizure to date,” she said in her statement.

The importer of the consignment and the shipping agent are under investigation. No arrests have been made.

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