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Philippines probes alleged church link to ivory

Published on Sep 26, 2012 2:13 PM

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine authorities said on Wednesday that they had launched an investigation into the possible involvement of Catholic priests in the illegal trade of African ivory.

The inquiry came after a National Geographic report said church ownership of religious icons made from ivory was widespread in the mainly Catholic country of about 100 million people, officials said.

Investigators said the probe would initially focus on two priests quoted in the article, one of whom allegedly gave the magazine a list of known ivory carvers in Manila and advice on how to smuggle statues abroad.

"We already knew... that the Philippines is a trans-shipment point of illegal tusks, and that they are smuggled out as religious icons," Mr Mundita Lim, head of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, told AFP.

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