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Tusks and elephant tails seized in Ivory Coast: NGO

Abidjan, Ivory Coast | AFP | Two tusks and 46 elephant tails have been seized in Ivory Coast, activists said Tuesday, adding that a customs officer acting as an accomplice to traffickers was among four arrested.

“Two impressive tusks of 1.6 metres each” were seized by a specialist unit from the Ivorian police force assisted by agents from the ministry for water and forests, nature activist group Eagle said in a press release.

Officers discovered 46 elephant tails, “a figure that… testifies to the extent of the massacre”, added Eagle, an NGO specialising in the fight against the trafficking of protected species.

The tails are used to make bracelets sold for up to 2,000 euros ($2,300) each on the black market, according to Eagle.

About 100 objects made of ivory and warthog horn were also seized.

Four traffickers — two Ivorians, including a customs officers working at Abidjan airport, and two Guineans — were taken to court on Tuesday, after a spending week in police custody, according to the statement.

The police operation took place on October 31.

The traffickers’ haul was believed to be destined for the Asian market.

Due to the toughening of the fight against poaching and illegal trade in east Africa, traffickers are setting up new channels through West Africa, where authorities are more focused on combating drug-trafficking, Eagle’s spokesman Adama Kamagate told AFP.

Punishment for trafficking in the Ivory Coast remains a small deterrent to the smugglers, who face a prison sentence of two months to a year, with a fine of 3,000 to 300,000 CFA francs (5 to 450 euros).

More than 35,000 elephants are slaughtered each year on the African continent from an approximate population of more than 450,000 in the wild.

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