Tanzania police seize poached elephant tusks

DAR ES SALAAM Wed Aug 24, 2011 2:34pm EDT

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DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzanian authorities have seized more than 1,000 elephant tusks hidden in sacks of dried fish at Zanzibar port which were destined for Malaysia, officials said on Wednesday.

Like other countries across sub-Saharan Africa rich with wildlife, Tanzania has suffered from increased poaching in recent years as criminals kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks which are used for ornaments and in some medicines.

A total of 1,041 elephant tusks were stashed in a container with 114 sacks of dried sardines earmarked for export. The tusks nabbed in Zanzibar likely originated from mainland Tanzania.

Two suspects have been arrested and are being questioned, Zanzibar police spokesman Mohammed Mhina said.

"We don't know yet how much the elephant tusks weigh but Interpol officials from Dar es Salaam have arrived to investigate the incident."

Mhina said shipping documents for the container laden with elephant tusks show the consignment was destined for Malaysia.

Rampant poaching in the Serengeti -- a park in north Tanzania famed for its sweeping plains and vistas of Africa's most spectacular wildebeest migration -- in the 1960s and 70s saw the population of black rhinos in the country plummet from over 1,000 to just 70.

Most of the elephant tusks smuggled from the east African nation end up in Asian countries, according to police.

(Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Yara Bayoumy)

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