Largest ivory seizure in Austrian history by Customs Investigation Service

The Vienna Customs Investigation Service reported Austria’s largest seizure of ivory at the beginning of November. Ninety elephant tusks were secured in the raid.

At the beginning of November, the Customs Investigation Service of Vienna was informed of the delivery of three elephant tusks, as well as cash, which took place on a public street in Vienna. The detailed testimony of a witness and the precise description of the parties involved enabled both buyer and seller to be identified.

The Customs Investigation Service succeeded in identifying, as the buyer on the transaction, an Austrian citizen who had previously come to the attention of the authorities regarding violations of the Federal Endangered Species Trading Act. Upon a search of the two apartments of the buyer in Vienna, as recommended by the Vienna Customs Office in its capacity as financial crime investigative authority and ordered by the Vienna Public Prosecutor’s Office, 90 individual elephant tusks were secured. The specimens have a length of 37 cm to 213 cm, and their total weight is 563.74 kg. According to insiders, elephant tusks are traded on the black market at a price of EUR 1,000.00 per kilogram. This seizure is thus one of the largest seizures of ivory in the EU to-date.

“In 1990, the highest level of protection available under the International Convention on the Protection of Endangered Species was given to elephants – and this status was awarded, incidentally, based on a proposal made by Austria. Unfortunately, in view of the existence of willing buyers, and given the potential for profits, poachers and illegal traders are not concerned about complying with a convention for the protection of endangered species” – comments Gerhard Marosi, expert on protection of endangered species at the Austrian Federal Ministry of Finance. 

The CITES, the Council Regulation (EC) on protection of species of wild fauna and flora, and the Austria Endangered Species Trading Act 2009 strictly control, restrict or – indeed – entirely prohibit trading in endangered species listed in the CITES catalogue, numbering at present more than 35,000 species, in order to counteract the potential extinction of species caused by trade.

Mr Bernhard Sklusak, head of the Vienna Customs Authority stated: “The discovery of this violation of endangered species protection law represents a major contribution to the protection of endangered wildlife and a further success in combatting fraud!”

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