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Huge haul exposes cruelty of international ivory trade

As many as 300 elephants would have died to produce the amount seized by authorities in Kenya. Photo: ITV News

Two tonnes of ivory seized in Kenya; another grim milestone, the largest haul of ivory seized in Kenyan history. It's thought as many as 300 hundred elephants would have been killed to gather that amount.

The consignment was being shipped to Indonesia, destined for the lucrative Asian markets.

Roughly half the world's smuggled ivory ends up in China, in the hands of the men I met earlier today. Posing as a businessman, I'm shown five tusks by illegal ivory dealers.

Five thousand miles from the plains of East Africa, in a hotel room near Beijing: the front line of China's black market in what's called white gold.

It's a cruel trade, as the number of elephants goes down, the price goes up he tells me.

Poaching equals profit. He shows me one tusk which he says has been taken from an animal before it died. He says it has a reddish colour and is worth more. He tells me:

If I brought you all the ivory that I have, I would be executed if I was caught

He claims he has two hundred tusks for sale, at £20,000 each. He can get more he claims, he can get his contacts to send them in the post, from Africa to Burma and then into southern China.

As long as they are less than 1.6 metres they can be sent in packages, he says, and if not then they are cut in half.

As the number of elephants decreases, the price of ivory goes up. Credit: ITV News

I ask him why people want ivory so much. He says for ornaments, as an investment but also to bribe officials.

So far this year, there have been two seizures of almost three tonnes of ivory in under three weeks, all heading to Asia. It's the run up to Chinese New Year, celebrated next month, and the dealer tells me this is a peak time as buyers are looking for that sought after gift.

A black-market ivory trader displays a decorative ivory ornament in Beijing. Credit: ITV News

2012 was a dreadful year for ivory poaching, the worst on record, this year has begun with another dire warning that this deadly demand is threatening the future of the world's elephants.