Ivory worth S$18 million to be crushed; new centre to bolster Singapore’s fight against illegal wildlife trade

Ivory worth S$18 million to be crushed; new centre to bolster Singapore’s fight against illegal wildlife trade

illegal ivory NParks
The nine tonnes of ivory crushed were seized over the past few years in several enforcement operations. (Facebook/Nparks)

SINGAPORE: Nine tonnes of ivory worth S$18 million will be destroyed from Tuesday (Aug 11), as a show of Singapore’s commitment to combat illegal trade in wildlife, said the National Parks Board (NParks).

This is the largest seizure crushed globally in recent years and the event will be livestreamed on the NParksSG Youtube page to commemorate World Elephant Day on Aug 12, said NParks in a press release.

“Crushing the ivory we have seized ensures that it will never re-enter the market and will help disrupt the global supply chain of illegally traded ivory,” said Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who launched Tuesday's ivory crushing.

"This sends a clear signal to poachers, traffickers and dealers that Singapore resolves to stamp out the illegal trade in wildlife passing through our city."

Singapore is a signatory of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which bans the global trade in ivory. But the country is also a major transit point for the illegal ivory trade.

READ: Singapore to ban domestic trade in ivory

The ivory was seized from various shipments from 2014 to 2019, including the confiscation of 8.8 tonnes of tusks in July last year from the Democratic Republic of Congo destined for Vietnam. 

The tusks were estimated to come from the killing of nearly 300 African elephants and the operation was the largest ivory seizure in Singapore.

NParks personnel arranging an ivory tusk
Authorities intercepted a transshipment bound for Vietnam. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

READ: Singapore seizes record haul of ivory alongside pangolin scales in S$66m shipment

SINGAPORE'S FIRST CENTRE FOR WILDLIFE FORENSICS

NParks also launched Singapore’s first Centre for Wildlife Forensics (CWF), which aims to strengthen detection and diagnostic capabilities in identifying and analysing specimens involved in the illegal wildlife trade.

It will focus on wildlife most affected by the illegal trade, such as elephants, rhinoceros, pangolins, sharks and rays and songbirds.

Working with the Centre for Animal and Veterinary Sciences, the CWF will carry out wildlife forensics - using DNA techniques and other types of diagnostics such as next generation sequencing, mass spectrometry and isotope analysis - to gather information to help global enforcement efforts against poaching and illegal trade. 

The centre will produce greater resolution and deeper insights on seized items, such as determining the origin of the population of poached species, said NParks.

READ: Commentary: Singapore’s ivory trade ban tackles elephant in room but work ahead a mammoth task

TACKLING ILLEGAL TIMBER TRADE

The CWF will also combat the illegal trade of timber through the new Singapore Xylarium, a collection of timber references, timber samples and a timber DNA library. 

Housed within the Singapore Botanic Gardens Seed bank, the collection of timber specimens in the Xylarium will enable researchers to compare and identify timber species using "a combination of wood morphology, genetics and chemical analysis" said NParks.

This will help Singapore investigate and prosecute any illegal trade of timber more effectively, it added. 

"The launch of a Centre for Wildlife Forensics in Singapore represents a major step towards strengthening the country’s knowledge and capabilities," said CITES secretary general Ivonne Higuero. 

"The Centre will establish a dedicated capacity building entity for enforcement officers, providing training for the complex task of detecting illegal wildlife and wildlife products," she added.

"This is exactly the kind of response that is needed to tackle illegal wildlife crime. Forensic applications must fully be used to combat illegal trade in wildlife.”

Source: CNA/cc(ta)

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