Rhino Horns continue to be Smuggled into Malaysia and Southeast Asia
A haul of 18 rhino horns seized by Malaysian Customs officers is on display at Kuala Lumpur Airport. Photo Credit: TRAFFIC
The shipment this time was from Mozambique, via Doha in Qatar, and consisted of 18 rhino horns. Alert Malaysian authorities at Kuala Lumpur International Airport managed to seize the horns, which amounted to 51.5kg and would have been worth almost RM14 million on the black market.
Acting on a tip, Malaysian customs officers conducted a search of the cargo warehouse of the airport’s Free Trade Zone, where they discovered the horns packed into a small crate. The crate had been enclosed inside a cardboard carton that was supposed to contain artworks.
Nor has this find of illegally smuggled rhino horns been the first in recent weeks in Southeast Asia. Since March 8, five other shipments of illegally traded rhino horns have been found with a combined total of 103 horns, which weighed at least 235kg in all. In Hong Kong alone, three other shipments of illicit rhino horns were seized: two of them had been dispatched from Mozambique. Authorities in Thailand and Vietnam, too, have discovered similar shipments over the same time period.
The scale of the trafficking underlines the “illegal trade’s continued onslaught on rhinos” in Africa and Asia, TRAFFIC said in a statement. “Traffickers are varying their routes to avoid detection and this case clearly points to the need for vigilance throughout Southeast Asia,’’ said Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior program manager for TRAFFIC in Southeast Asia.
In Malaysia itself, a domestic market for the sale of rhino horns is almost nonexistent but the country continues to serve as a regional hub for wildlife traffickers seeking to smuggle in rhino horns, elephant tusks and other prohibited items from Africa and elsewhere. “Our rich biodiversity makes us a natural target for those seeking to get their hands on highly sought after wildlife or their parts, such as tigers, pangolins and bears,” Krishnasamy explained.
TRAFFIC says that its analysis of ivory seizures from 2003–2014 “showed that at least 23 rhino horns were mixed in three of the 66 shipments of elephant ivory that implicated Malaysia as part of their trade chain.” That is why, it adds, seizures “are an indispensable step when banned goods have already entered a trade chain,” the group says. “These recent seizures across Southeast Asia point to a ‘busy’ trafficking period and we hope that law enforcement agencies in the region collaborate to fight this crime in an effective and united manner.”