U.S. Customs and Border Protection said couple tried to smuggle elephant, hippopotamus, warthog tusks.

Share story

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said it seized carved ivory worth an estimated $25,000 after a couple attempted to smuggle the materials through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport earlier this month.

A husband and wife flying in from the Philippines on May 11 carried in their luggage 34 pieces of elephant ivory, two carved hippopotamus tusks and two carved warthog tusks, agency spokesman Jason Givens said.

At a customs check, they told officials they were bringing pickled mango into the country. But when officers inspected their bags with an X-ray machine, they found a box containing about 16 pounds of carved ivory and tusks wrapped in newspaper, he added. The couple didn’t have the proper documents for their cargo, Givens said.

The officials contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service inspectors, who seized the items. The couple was fined $500 for violating an international treaty called CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that regulates the trade of plant and wildlife species, Givens said. The seized ivory and tusks will be sent to the National Wildlife Property Repository, where they may be displayed for educational purposes or destroyed, he said.

CITES bans commercial trade of animals threatened by extinction. It also regulates the trade of species that could be in danger of becoming extinct if uncontrolled. Plant and animal products must be declared before travelers enter the U.S., and many items covered under the CITES treaty are required to have specific paperwork.

Carved elephant tusks can fetch about $3,000 per kilogram (about $1,400 per pound) on the black market, according to Havoscope, a service that compiles data on black-market transactions.