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Cross-border probe into suspected ivory, turtle shell trade underway in NZ

11-02-2011 14:10 BJT

WELLINGTON, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand wildlife authorities said Wednesday they are still studying 25 items suspected to be made of elephant ivory and the shell of a hawksbill turtle, which were seized as part of an international investigation.

The items seized from an Auckland address late Monday were still undergoing forensic analysis to determine their origin, Department of Conservation (DOC) spokesman Nick Hurst told Xinhua.

"We still don't have the results back on that yet it could take a few days," he said in a phone interview.

The items including three carved tusks, six statues and a fan were seized in a raid by New Zealand's Wildlife Enforcement Group (WEG), which comprises officials from the DOC, Customs and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

Two Auckland men were still helping WEG officials with their inquiries Wednesday, said Hurst.

The raid was carried out simultaneously to a raid by Britain's Police National Wildlife Crime Unit and the United Kingdom Border Agency in the English city of Cheltenham, where two men were arrested on suspicion of the illegal purchase of two elephant tusks and evading export restrictions.

The raids followed the discovery of two parcels containing items carved from African elephant tusks at the Auckland Mail Centre. The parcels, which had no New Zealand permits for the ivory imports, were posted from Portugal and England, according to a DOC statement.

"The two items seized at the Auckland Mail Centre have been tested and confirmed to have come from African elephant tusks," Hurst told Xinhua.

None of the seized items had permits to import any specimen of endangered species as required under New Zealand's Trade in Endangered Species Act 1989. African and Asian elephants and hawksbill turtles are all classified as endangered species, according to the DOC, which administers the Act.

A ban on the trade in ivory was imposed in 1989 by the 175 countries, including New Zealand, that are signatories of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.

The penalties for illegally importing endangered wildlife items into New Zealand include a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to 100,000 NZ dollars (79,310 U.S. dollars).

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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