AUTHORITIES in Thailand have seized 326lb of African elephant ivory worth around 15 million baht (£350,000) at Bangkok airport.

Police said the haul from Nigeria consisted of three large tusks and 31 tusk fragments which were seized on January 5 after the cargo was flagged by officials.

The tusks were destined for China where there is a large demand for ivory, a police spokesman said.

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“These ivory tusks were taken from very big elephants, and elephants of that size are now hard to find even in Africa,” said Somkiat Soontornpittakkool, an official from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

“And judging from how the tusks look, they appear to have been taken a while ago. They weren’t hunted recently. They were taken and stored for a while before smugglers sent them out.”

A Customs Department statement said the seized ivory would be impounded as police widen investigations to identify suspects involved in the smuggling.

Thailand had been considered to have the largest unregulated ivory market in the world and had been threatened with sanctions under the trade of protected wildlife species, but introduced new laws and amendments in 2014 and 2015 to regulate domestic ivory markets and criminalise the sale of African elephant ivory.

Thailand is still considered a major transit hub and destination for smuggled tusks, but the biggest demand comes from China.