Authorities in the southeastern DR Congo have seized one and a half tons of ivory, legal and environmental officials said, as part of one of the largest extractions in Africa in recent years.

Officers found smuggled tusks aboard trucks in the town of Lubumbashi on Saturday, according to an official who declined to give his name because of involvement in the ongoing investigation into the case.

Police arrested five people but two fled after questioning, the official said. He added that the transportation was 1.5 tons.

Both the origin and final destination of ivory remain unclear.

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Sabin Mande, a lawyer with the Coalition of Environmental Groups, told AFP that he saw 18 bags of confiscated ivory at the Lubumbashi prosecutor’s office on Wednesday.

The smuggling represents 80 to 100 killed elephants, he said.

The seizure has become one of the largest in Africa in recent years. In 2013, Kenyan officials made several seizures, including one of four tons. Togolese authorities also seized four tons of ivory in one week in 2014.

In 2019, Vietnamese officials discovered more than nine tons of ivory in a cargo carrying timber from the Republic of Congo, also known as Congo-Brazzaville, during the world’s largest recent shipment.

China and Southeast Asia are major markets for African ivory, which is mainly used for presumed medicines in traditional medicine.

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