by Agence France-Presse
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine authorities said Friday, September 28, they had launched a nationwide investigation into Catholic devotees collecting religious figures made of “blood” ivory smuggled from Africa.
The probe, launched this week, was initially focused primarily on one priest who was quoted in a National Geographic article allegedly giving instructions on how to smuggle ivory and naming carvers who would turn it into statues.
However the head of the National Bureau of Investigation’s environment division, Sixto Comia, said his officers had now also begun looking into other owners of ivory figures, amid concerns that the trade was extensive.
“This is a nationwide operation. Those people who like religious statues, especially the rich, they want ivory. Some of them know it is illegal but there are people still importing it,” he told AFP.
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