WASHINGTON, May 24, 2012 — Further protections needed as 1.5 tons of elephant tusks seized in Sri Lanka

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Sri Lankan authorities said they seized around 350 illegal elephant tusks weighing nearly 1.5 tons in Colombo port on Tuesday – marking the single biggest ivory haul in the island nation. As authorities around the globe work to bring these culprits to justice, today in the U.S. the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Senator John Kerry held a hearing to examine the global security implications of elephant poaching in Africa.

“We applaud Senator Kerry for recognizing the global impact of the illegal ivory trade in Africa,” said Kelvin Alie, Program Director, Wildlife Crime and Consumer Awareness, IFAW. “Since 2004, the scale of wildlife trafficking and its subsequent impact on wildlife in African range states has increased significantly. It is vital that this illegal trade is eliminated before it causes irreparable damage to these species and the ecosystems in which they live.”

So far, 2012 has proven a bloody year for elephants. A report released this week from wildlife officials in the Republic of Congo estimates that nearly 5,000 elephants have been killed by poachers around the Nouabale Ndoki National Park over the past five years. In addition, a tragic killing spree earlier this year in Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park left more than 200 elephants dead by the time the country’s military was sent into action.

“The U.S. has long been a leader in elephant conservation through programs like those managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and USAID,” said Jeff Flocken, IFAW DC Office Director. “With more and more links being found to organized crime, regional conflict and even terrorist groups, the U.S. can now lead in fighting wildlife crime by looking at it the same way we do the arms and drug trades – as a threat to national security and global stability.”

To learn more about IFAW’s efforts to protect elephants, visit www.ifaw.org.

About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal WelfareFounded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.