The criminal life has not been hard for ivory smugglers.
Operating on vast, unwatched swaths of the African savanna, poachers slaughter elephants for their tusks, which move up through a pyramid of middlemen until they’re loaded en masse into shipping containers and dispatched at international ports.
There are customs agents there, but out of roughly one billion containers shipped around the world each year, only one to two percent can be inspected.
As the staggering statistics on the illegal ivory trade show, it’s pretty easy to make tons of ivory disappear.
Catching the culprits requires tracing the ivory back to the people who wrested it from the elephants, but doing so is no easy task.
These are professional criminals, and they’ve developed a suite of tricks to avoid detection or at least only get caught with smaller seizures.
“I am very passionate about my work and when the patterns started emerging, it was indescribably exciting and energizing,” Wasser tells Inverse. »