In a monumental bust, customs officials in southeast China have confiscated 57 elephant tusks bound for the black market. According to local authorities, the tusks were found concealed in a shipment of timber imported from Uganda. Weighing in at 119 kilograms (262 pounds), the haul is believed to be worth nearly 8.2 million yuan (1.3 million US dollars).

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Officials in Xiamen, China, lay out the haul of tusks. Image © Visual China Group

"It is the largest confiscation of smuggled elephant tusks by Chinese customs this year," a spokesperson from Xiamen customs told ECNS.

Authorities have arrested an alleged suspect who claimed to have bought the tusks in Uganda earlier this year, and had intended to smuggle them into south China’s Guangdong Province, where they would have been processed and sold.

Two of the 57 elephant confiscated tusks. Image © Visual China Group

This contraband seizure comes just a few weeks after a raid in China’s Jiangxi Province that resulted in the confiscation of over 600 kilograms (1,323 pounds) of ivory and ivory products following a year-long operation by Chinese authorities. It’s good news for the world’s elephant populations as China shows signs that it is intensifying its efforts to fight the illegal trade of wildlife products.

In a landmark decision made in September this year, the US and China agreed to enforce a “nearly complete ban” on the import and export of ivory in an effort to help curb rampant poaching that claims the lives of as many as 33,000 elephants every year. The ban marks the first public commitment by China’s President Xi Jinping to put a stop to ivory sales in the country, the world’s largest market, and comes after a vow from Chinese officials earlier in the year to phase out domestic ivory trade.

The ban covers “significant and timely restrictions on the import of ivory as hunting trophies” as well as unspecified “significant and timely steps to halt the domestic commercial trade of ivory.”

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In total 57 tusks were confiscated in the seizure. Image © Visual China Group