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Cambodia seizes over 3 tons of rare African ivory

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Cambodian authorities said Saturday that they have seized more than 3 tons of rare African ivory hidden inside an abandoned shipping container, the country’s largest haul of elephant tusks in the last four years.

Tipped off by the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, a total of 1,026 pieces of elephant tusks, weighing up to 3.2 tons, was found on Thursday at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, said Sun Chhay, a director of the Customs and Excise Office at the port.

He said the ivory was sent from the southern African nation of Mozambique. The elephant tusks arrived at the Phnom Penh port in July, but officials did not find them until Thursday.

Sun Chhay refused to comment on where the ivory was supposed to be headed, but said Cambodia was only being used as a transit point.

Large hauls of smuggled wildlife goods are not uncommon in Cambodia. In recent years, the country has earned a reputation for being a hub for the illegal wildlife trade, most of it driven by demand from China and Vietnam.

In May 2014, Cambodian customs officials seized some 3 tons of African ivory hidden in a container of beans at the country’s southwestern port of Sihanoukville.

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