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90 illegal elephant tusks discovered in Vienna

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90 illegal elephant tusks discovered in Vienna
Photo: Bundesministerium für Finanzen
12:27 CET+01:00
Austrian customs officials have seized a total of 564 kilos of smuggled ivory from two small apartments in the Austrian capital Vienna, which reportedly belong to a former boxing champion.

It’s the largest amount of illegal ivory ever found in Austria.

90 elephant tusks measuring up to 2 metres long, some of them with intricate carvings, were discovered. A stuffed armadillo was also found. The tusks were wrapped in blankets and hidden behind boxes in the two apartments.

Police believe the ivory was smuggled to Europe by sea, and then to Austria by road. It’s likely that the tusks were to be sold to buyers in Asia. China and Vietnam are the largest markets for ivory.

The smuggling ring was uncovered after police were tipped off that a man was trying to sell three elephant tusks on the streets of Vienna. The buyer was identified as an Austrian who had already broken the law by buying illegal wildlife.

When they searched his apartments they found an astonishing collection of ivory. He’s reportedly a well-known boxer who has won World and African championship titles. If found guilty of trading in endangered wildlife he faces up to two years in prison.

On the black market, ivory sells for up to €1,000 per kilogram. Bernhard Sklusak, the head of Vienna Customs Office, said the seized ivory will probably be given to museums.

Wildlife and animal parts are trafficked much like illegal drugs and arms. Elephant ivory has become a key source of funding for armed groups in central Africa.

Ivory trafficking by criminal gangs causes the poaching deaths of some 30,000 endangered African elephants a year.

 
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