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Wednesday, 29 March, 2000, 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK
Egypt seizes record ivory haul
Ivory auction
Despite the international ban, there is a busy trade in ivory
By Frank Gardner in Cairo

Egyptian police have seized a record haul of ivory with a street value of over $200,000.

On Wednesday, Egypt's environment ministry announced that 78 pieces of elephant tusks has been seized from a warehouse in the town of Aswan.


tusks
Seizures of smuggled ivory happen all over the world
International trade in ivory has been banned since 1990.

A statement from Egypt's environment ministry, which enforces the ban in Egypt, said the elephant ivory had been smuggled in from central Africa.

The ministry said the tusks had been collected by the owner of a warehouse in Aswan for distribution to ivory traders around the country.

Ivory trade

Dealing in ivory is illegal in Egypt, but there is still big money to be made from collectors of carved ivory ornaments. Some of the buyers are in the Middle East, but most are in the Far East, particularly China.

An unidentified official at the environment ministry said the man who owned the captured tusks was the biggest ivory trader in Egypt. He said he was arrested in a police operation, whereby an undercover agent pretended to be an interested buyer.

Aswan, where the arrest took place, has long been a thriving market place for African goods, some legal and some not.

Bazaar vendors in the southern Egyptian town tried to sell baby crocodiles in jam jars to tourists. Dried leopard skins can be found in the back of certain shops alongside knives fashioned from goat's horns.

Few in Egypt will be surprised to learn that Aswan had become the distribution centre for over 100 kilos of smuggled ivory.

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See also:

10 Feb 99 | Sci/Tech
Ivory ban lifted
18 Mar 99 | Sci/Tech
Shoot an elephant, save a species
02 Jan 00 | Africa
Poachers killed in Kenya
08 Sep 99 | Africa
A jumbo-sized dilemma in Zambia
16 Jul 99 | Africa
Japan imports African ivory
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