Three smugglers have been caught trying to ship 3,700 pounds -- nearly two tons -- of elephant ivory from Togo to Vietnam. The suspects, a 44-year old Vietnamese man and his two Togolese accomplices, were nabbed with a loading container filled with the tusks -- a weight that amounts to the tusks of about 230 elephants. The ivory -- which can be seen in AP's arresting photographs -- was covered with wood to disguise it from officials.
AP reports that Togo has for a long time been a hub for ivory from Central Africa on its way to Asia, despite an international ban on trading ivory in 1989.
The ivory trade from Africa to Asia, where the material is valued for trinkets and souvenirs, is one of the biggest problems facing elephants today. The news comes just days after Hong Kong announced that it would follow China's lead and destroy 28 tons of ivory, a move that was lauded as a big step for Asian nations in the battle against the ivory trade.
Action Guide: Ivory
The ivory trade is the biggest driver of elephant poaching in the world, despite a global CITES ban on the sale of ivory since 1990. In 2012 alone, 22,000 African elephants were killed, often to supply a major consumer demand in Asia, especially in China. To avoid products that could help fuel the ivory trade, check out this guide by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the Unites States, there is also concern that "vintage" ivory (not from recent poaching) contributes to the ivory demand, and therefore poaching (see The Nature Conservancy for information about how most antique "legal" ivory is in fact not). To beome active in this issue, you can become in campaigns by World Wildlife Fund, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International Conservation Caucus Foundation.