Hong Kong Ivory Seizure: Where’s the Boss?

Last week, Hong Kong customs made a record ivory seizure. Not to take away from the work, but ivory seizures are deceptive. Unlike seizures of trafficked drugs, humans, or live wildife, ivory seizures do not protect the victim (the elephant is already dead). Seizures stop an illicit good in transit, but they also signal crime bosses to cover their tracks.  And they mean more elephants must be killed to fill a new hole in supply.

In the 22 years since an ivory ban went into effect no major transnational ivory trafficking syndicate has been identified and dismantled.  No true global ivory trafficking kingpins have gone to prison. Seizures get media attention, in part because of how big they can be financially and visually. The true measure of law enforcement is not seizures, its the courts–in China, in Hong Kong, in Japan, in Southeast Asia, and in Africa. Watch this case, if it proceeds as others have, low level individuals will go to prison, while faceless crime bosses continue their trade.

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