Thai customs hold up confiscated elephant tusks during a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand
Thai customs hold up confiscated elephant tusks during a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand Athit Perawongmetha/ Reuters

Officials have seized large elephant tusks worth more than $450,000 in Thailand from the Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok. The poached ivory from Lagos was discovered in cargo.

Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said that after analyzing the discolored tusks, authorities have claimed that they had been kept in storage for a long time.

"From what I can tell, these ivory tusks were taken from very big elephants, and elephants of that size are now hard to find even in Africa," Somkiat told The Associated Press.

In addition, he said that after observing the color of the tusks "they appear to have been taken a while ago. They weren't hunted recently. They were taken and stored for a while before smugglers sent them out."

The Daily Sabah reported that the tusks and 31 broken pieces of elephant ivory were shipped from Nigeria's commercial centre of Lagos to Bangkok via an Ethiopian Airlines flight.

Kulit Sombatsiri, director general of Thai customs said in a press meet that the registered address, where these smuggled goods were supposed to reach in Thailand, doesn't exist.

He also said that according to the size of these tusks, they thought that it definitely doesn't represent Thai elephants and to identify the exact origins, a DNA test is required.

Thai forensic experts work near confiscated elephant tusks after a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand
Thai forensic experts work near confiscated elephant tusks after a news conference at the Customs Department in Bangkok, Thailand Athit Perawongmetha/ Reuters

However, Sombatsiri and other officials think that the discovered items were actually going to China, as world's biggest ivory market is located in that country. Even though the Chinese government has put a ban on ivory trade at the end of 2017, markets still exist.

In the matter of ivory ban in China, Ginette Hemley, the senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a statement that the ban cannot solve the poaching of elephants and "It's equally critical that China's neighbours follow suit and shut down ivory markets across Asia. Only then can we ensure the open trade doesn't simply shift to other countries and offer traffickers' safe channels for newly-poached ivory."

Since 2016, Thai customs department has seized almost one billion dollar worth of smuggled products of endangered species in 52 different cases. Last year, the officials seized 510 smuggled elephant tusks.

The smuggling racket, which includes rhinoceros horns, pangolin scales, turtles, and other exotic wildlife, is prevalent in Thailand because most of the flights from African countries to Asia have to go via Bangkok.