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Elephant Ivory Disguised as Chocolate

Poachers go to great lengths in pursuit of illegal wildlife trade

  • ivory disguised as chocolate
  • name seals
  • chocolate ivory lunch bar
  • chocolate wrappers
  • schreger lines

Custom officials in Macao, China grew suspicious when they saw 15 boxes of unusually heavy chocolate in a set of luggage. Further investigation brought a staggering find: After soaking in warm water, the chocolate melted away to reveal 583 elephant tusks.

Between September and December of 2012, more than 90 ivory seals, known as name chops, were found concealed in chocolate packaging and recovered from South Africa to Taiwan. In another recent seizure, Hong Kong customs officials found 1,148 ivory tusks disguised as timber on a ship from Togo.

“Nothing shocks me anymore—especially at how far people will go to engage in illegal wildlife trade,” said Crawford Allan, director of TRAFFIC North America. “Luckily, officials detected the ‘chocolate’ ivory before the traffickers turned a profit. Unfortunately, these incidents are not isolated, and trade in illegal wildlife continues to be a major global problem.”

More than 30,000 elephants are now killed for their tusks annually. The crisis is fueled by a demand for illegal ivory—part of wildlife crime trade valued between $7.8 billion and $10 billion per year.

WWF is working with on the ground and with governments around the world to halt poaching and address the global demand for ivory.