Major ivory theft in Maputo

Maputo authorities have confirmed the theft of 266 elephant tusks, weighing six tons, from the country's National Directorate of Land and Forests (DNTF), a guarded institution under the aegis of the Mozambican agriculture ministry.

Ministry sources have been quoted as saying that the stolen tusks were the most valuable specimens out of seven tons of ivory in storage at the DNTF.

Collected across Mozambique between 2004 and 2011, many of the tusks were confiscated from poachers while others belonged to elephants considered dangerous to communities. In such cases "problem elephants" are shot according to government regulations.

It has been reported that the thieves concentrated on the large tusks measuring between 1.2 and 1.5 metres, leaving behind smaller tusks as well as 12 rhinoceros horns.

The sale of elephant tusks is banned under the United Nations Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) but ivory smuggling continues to be a major problem in east African countries.

The incident took place on 28 February and an ongoing police investigation began the next day. Local media reports suggest that the ivory could be worth up to $5 million if sold on China's booming black market.