FIJI POLICE RAID PAWN SHOPS FOR TABUA

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Whale’s teeth can’t be sold without license

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Feb. 21, 2010) - Three pawn shops in Suva were raided by Fiji Police this week because they were selling ‘tabua’ without the proper license.

[PIR editor’s note: Tabua is a sperm whale’s tooth. It is of special value in Fijian culture as a gift for special occasions such as land acquisition, marriage, home building, atonement, honoring visitors, easing tempers and more. In ancient times, chiefs were sometimes buried with their tabua and their strangled wives.]

The operation, which confiscated 845 tabua’s, was in collaboration with the Department of Environment who are now enforcing regulations under the Endangered and Protected Species Act 2002.

The regulation requires anyone selling tabua to be registered with the Department and have a license.

The three pawns shops – Queenie’s, Henry’s and Empire – have been forbidden to trade tabua while they seek proper licenses.

Environment Department spokesperson Jope Davetanivalu said the confiscated tabua’s will not be returned to the shops, and that legal proceedings would be pursued against them.

He said six other pawn shops in the Suva-Nausori corridor are not affected because they carry the authorized permits to sell tabua.

Meanwhile, Soqosoqo Vakamarama general secretary Adi Finau Tabukaucoro said the Environment department should consider the aspect of "whale conservation".

She said tabua’s were declining in numbers in Fiji because of the global impetus to stop killing the near-extinct mammals.

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