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Confiscated African elephant tusks are displayed during a press conference in Bangkok, Thailand. International trade in ivory has been banned since 1989.


Crime Blotter: Elephant Ivory, Rhino Horn, a Giraffe Skull, and More

A weekly roundup of wildlife crimes.

Every Sunday, Wildlife Watch notes some of the previous week’s wildlife crime busts and convictions around the world.

RHINO HORN SMUGGLING: A North Korean diplomat was expelled after he was arrested for illegal rhino horn trading, reports the Associated Press. A spokesman for South Africa’s Department of International Relations confirmed the incident, while the North Korean Embassy in South Africa declined to comment. The man was arrested after authorities found nearly 10 pounds of rhino horn and $100,000 of cash in his car.

IVORY TRAFFICKING: A man from Florida pleaded guilty to trafficking elephant ivory from the U.S. to China, according to the Associated Press. He faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

RHINO HORN PURCHASING: A Chinese businessman was sentenced to 10 years in prison or a fine of $100,000 Namibian dollars ($6,600 U.S.) for illegally possessing two rhino horns, says The Namibian. The man claimed that he didn’t know a license was required to buy rhino horns and that he thought the horns’ sellers had the proper paperwork.

GIRAFFE SKULL SMUGGLING: A task force formed by the police in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, to combat poaching arrested a man suspected of trying to smuggle a giraffe skull to the United Arab Emirates, reports The Citizen. He’s a guard of King Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad At-Thani, Emir of Qatar.

ELEPHANT AND RHINO POACHING: Forest officers in the Jalpaiguri district of India’s West Bengal arrested four men accused of attempting to poach animals, reports The Siasat Daily. The officers seized a rifle and “elephant ivory and rhino killing machineries.” One of the accused is a soldier from Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force.

BIRD POACHING: Police in Montes de Oro, in the Costa Rican province of Puntarenas, arrested two men transporting 62 birds inside bags in the back seat of their vehicle, according to the The Tico Times, a Costa Rican newspaper. Authorities believe that the birds, half of which were dead, had been stolen from the wild. Both men were released hours after their arrest pending an “environmental damage assessment.”

TIMBER POLICE KILLING: A police officer was killed and another badly injured in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, after a suspected illegal logger intentionally rear-ended their motorbike while the officers were in pursuit of a truck with a “suspicious-looking” load of wood, according to The Cambodia Daily. The suspects escaped.

ELEPHANT POACHING: "Some" people have been arrested in connection with the poaching of 20 elephants in the forests of southeastern Cameroon, reports dpa. The slaughter of elephants in Cameroon has reached "disturbing proportions," Nicolas Tamaffo Nguel, an official at the Forestry and Wildlife department in east Cameroon, told the publication. About 79 elephants were killed in the region last year.

RHINO POACHING: Field rangers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park arrested two men in connection with rhino poaching, announced AllAfrica. The men have been charged with possession of unlicensed firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, possession of a firearm with the intent to commit a crime, and theft.

IVORY IMPORTING: A man in Napier, New Zealand, was fined $8,000 for importing illegal ivory, reports Newstalk ZB. He bought an African elephant tusk, as well as other pieces of ivory, and told his supplier to lie on customs forms.

RHINO HORN THEIVING: Police detained the director of a government department in Johor, a state in southern Malaysia, for allegedly stealing a rhino horn artifact belonging to the Johor Royal Museum, says the The Star Online.

Fact of the Week: Wildlife conservation groups consider China the main driver of the illegal ivory trade. In 2008, the country petitioned to legally buy 73 tons of ivory from Africa, a move that led to a booming legal—and illegal—industry.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to