Pamela Shumba, Senior Reporter
TWO men who were travelling from Zimbabwe to Hong Kong have been detained after 36kgs of suspected ivory products were found in their luggage.
Media reports from Hong Kong said the two men aged 29 and 47 were caught last Wednesday on arrival from Harare on a flight from Dubai.
The reports indicate that during customs clearance, customs officers found about 19kgs of suspected ivory products concealed in a tailor-made vest inside the hand luggage belonging to the 47-year-old.
The customs officers also found about 17kgs of suspected ivory products in the hand luggage belonging to the 29-year-old suspect.
According to the reports, the ivory products are estimated at the value of HK$360,000 (about $46,449.31) in Hong Kong. The two suspects, the reports added, were handed over to the agriculture, fisheries and conservation department for further investigation.
The department oversees matters relating to ivory in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong statutes stipulate that any person found in possession of products under the protection of endangered species of animals and plants ordinance, without a licence is liable to a maximum fine of HK$5 million (about $645,127.60) and two years in jail.
Rampant poaching has gone on for years in the country with more than 300 elephants having been killed in the Hwange National Park after poachers laced salt pans with cyanide.
About two weeks ago, 22 elephants in the Hwange National Park were killed by cyanide poisoning bringing to 62 the number of elephants poisoned by poachers in October only.
Rangers found the carcasses of the elephants in Hwange National Park’s Sinamatella area. Cyanide is widely used in the country’s mining industry and is relatively easy to obtain.
In September, officials in Hong Kong intercepted 51kgs of ivory worth over $100,000 in two inbound airmail parcels from Zimbabwe via Amsterdam, the Netherlands.
The airmail was declared at Hong Kong International Airport as “decorative tiles”. This was a second case in two weeks after another consignment with their same products smuggled from Zimbabwe into Hong Kong was seized.
Elephant tusks have a huge market in Asia, especially in China. Although elephants are vulnerable across Africa, Zimbabwe has a large elephant population.
The national park estimates it has more than 100,000, although the park’s land should ideally only support 40,000 elephants.
Recently, the national parks authority also announced that authorities at the Harare international airport seized 173 kilogrammes (380lb) of ivory worth $43,250 that was about to be smuggled to Singapore.
Three Zimbabweans and a Malawian national were arrested over the smuggling attempt, the authority said in a statement .
A Zambian was also recently arrested in the country for trying to smuggle ivory weighing 25kg and valued at $6,320 into South Africa.
The Zambian was also found carrying a three metre long python skin.