Border officials ticked off after 10 tusks smuggled as dowry

Indonesian customs were told the tusks were being taken to a village in East Nusa Tenggara as a form of dowry. (Facebook pic)

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Deputy Chief Minister Christina Liew has urged Malaysian border authorities to pull up their socks after news reports emerged that elephant tusks from Sabah were seized in Indonesia this week.

Liew, who is state tourism and environment minister, said she was saddened and disappointed. News reports said 10 tusks were confiscated by Indonesian customs at Nunukan, Indonesia, last Tuesday.

She lamented that the seizure meant that Sabah had irreversibly lost another five male elephants to poachers.

“This is indeed bad news to our on-going conservation efforts to look after elephants in Sabah,” she said, adding this was the third time that the Indonesian customs officers had confiscated elephant tusks from Sabah.

She urged Malaysian officials to demonstrate the same efficiency as the Indonesian officials to ensure there is no recurrence of such smuggling.

A 54-year-old Indonesian estate worker was reported to have been arrested for attempting to smuggle the tusks into Kalimantan, Indonesia.

He was detained soon after arriving by ferry at Nunukan from Tawau and had been working in the neighbouring Lahad Datu district for more than 30 years.

The tusks were revealed by an X-ray scan of a plastic barrel the man had with him. He was reported to have told officials that he was bringing the tusks back to his home village in East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, as dowry.

Although the suspect did not mean to sell the ivory, it was still illegal to possess such items under the law,” an Indonesian official said.

A 40-year-old travel agent, who assisted the suspect in bringing in the tusks, has also been brought in for questioning.

Liew was worried that foreign workers in Sabah could be involved in such illegal activities and urged employers to monitor their workers’ activities.

She also called on plantation owners who face problems with elephants encroaching into their areas to work closely with the Sabah Wildlife protect their crops and, more importantly, to safeguard the elephants from poachers.