Illegal trade seizures: Elephant ivory in Europe Mapping the crimes

Jan 24, 2019 | Reports

Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)

We identified over 250 seizures of more than 12 tonnes of ivory in 16 European countries between January 2000 and October 2017. These seizures represent ivory sourced from approximately 1,800 elephants – but likely reflects a fraction of the actual illegal ivory trade connected with Europe during the past 17 years.

In comparison, legal re-exports from the EU between 2003-14 totalled 2.8 tonnes of pre-convention raw ivory, nearly all since 2007, and 4.1 tonnes of worked ivory,  87 per cent of which occurred between 2011-14. These government-reported figures, four tonnes in total, are dwarfed by the weight of seizures occurring since 2000 which we recorded.

The map includes seven large-scale seizures (over 500kg), four of which took place as recently as 2016 in Germany, Spain and Austria. Such large seizures are indicative of criminal organisations working across borders.

The year 2016 observed the highest volume of seizures by weight, with over three tonnes recorded.  The top four countries that have seized the largest amount of ivory in the EU are Spain, UK, France and Germany; all four have seized over one tonne and together account for nearly three-quarters of the total EU volume. The UK’s role is also significant, representing nearly a quarter of the weight of all seizures below 500kg and over 15 per cent of the whole seizure volume plotted on this map. Indeed the UK is also the single country with the world’s largest ivory being exported legally.

The sheer volume of seizures occurring within Europe highlights the significant role the EU plays in the global ivory trade. The apparent dominance of Brussels Airport is a perfect example of this. It should be noted that an important factor to consider in relation to the large number of seizures at Brussels Airport is the availability of data, compared to other countries in Europe; we encourage all governments to make information on ivory seizures and related prosecution outcomes publicly available. Although frequent, seizures occurring in Brussels have been mainly small, air-bound consignments.

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