Elephant tusk found in Auckland

Sixty nine pieces of ivory have been seized in Napier after an elephant tusk was intercepted at Auckland's international mail centre.

Investigators from the Wildlife Enforcement Group executed a search warrant and seized the ivory from a home in Napier on Wednesday, after a carved elephant tusk posted from France without an import permit led them to the address.

As African and Asian elephants are endangered, permits are required to import elephant ivory into New Zealand.

A Napier man is assisting the enforcement group with enquiries and forensic tests will be carried out on the items to confirm if they are made from ivory from endangered elephants.

The 69-piece collection included statues, carvings and whole pieces of tusk.

Ivory trading in New Zealand was banned in 1989 after the government signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, along with 174 other countries.

Senior investigator Dylan Swain said Asian and African elephants were at high risk of extinction because of poachers killing them for their tusks despite the ban.

"Sales of illegal ivory have been escalating and tonnes of ivory have been seized by authorities worldwide in the last few months.

"There has been a surge in demand for ivory in Asia and this is believed to be fuelling the illegal trade in elephant tusks."

The maximum penalty for importing endangered wildlife specimens without a permit is five years imprisonment, or a fine of up to $100,000.

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