Cambodia is a hot transit spot for African ivory. Two of the biggest markets for the material are China and Vietnam, despite local and global bans to stop its trade.
On Sunday, Cambodian authorities seized approximately 3.2 tons of elephant tusks from a storage container.
The tusks were sent from the African country of Mozambique. The container seized in Phnom Penh held 1,026 tusks.
The Cambodian authorities executed the operative following a tip from the United States embassy.
“The elephant tusks were hidden among marble in a container that was abandoned,” Sun Chhay, director of the customs an excise office at the port, said. Chhay did not specify were the confiscated tusks were headed.
Cambodia is a transit point for ivory trade worth billions of dollars. Its weak law enforcement, compared to neighboring Thailand which is actively pursuing illegal traders, makes Cambodia an appealing location for wildlife smugglers.
Earlier this year, 3.5 tons of Ivory were confiscated in Mozambique.
Nearly 40,000 elephants are killed by ivory traders every year. This amounts to approximately 10 percent of the entire elephant population in Africa, according to experts.
The biggest market for the elephant tusks is China. The government has put a ban on ivory to help curb its trade. In addition, the high demand from Vietnam also encourages poachers to collect and trade the material.
For its part, the United States also put an ivory-ban in place in 2016.
There is also a global ban in place since 1989 but smugglers have found a way around it which basically consists in passing off ivory as if it were older than 1989, allowing them to sell the material legally.