Friday, April 1, 2011

247 tusks shipped from Kenya seized

Photo |AFP Thai Customs Department officials inspect 247 seized elephant tusks in Bangkok on April 01, 2011.  The impounded ivory was worth more than Sh274 million.

Photo |AFP Thai Customs Department officials inspect 247 seized elephant tusks in Bangkok on April 01, 2011. The impounded ivory was worth more than Sh274 million.  

By FRED MUKINDA [email protected] and AFP

A consignment of elephant tusks shipped from Kenya has been intercepted by authorities in Thailand.

The 247 tusks worth over $3.3 million (Sh274 million), and weighing two tonnes were disguised as frozen fish.

Kenya Wildlife Service acting public relations officer Esther Walya said they were awaiting information from Thailand.

“We can’t respond until Thai authorities contact us with more information,” she said.

The tusks were concealed among hundreds of boxes of mackerel, in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya River, Thai customs department said.

The haul, which officials said was the biggest in a year and equated to at least 123 elephants killed, weighed 2,033 kg.

Another 2,000kg of elephant tusks, shipped through the Mombasa Port were seized in Vietnam in May last year.

Investigations showed the ivory originated from Selous National Park, one of the biggest conservation centres in Tanzania.

In February, police at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport seized two foreigners, travelling on Singapore passports, as they attempted to leave Kenya with 92kg of ivory.

The raw ivory was packed in four suitcases and the suspects were headed to Bangkok.

Investigations into the illegal ivory trade have shown Kenya is a safe route for smuggling cartels, but the country has been cleared of being the source of elephant tusks and ivory products seized in various parts of the world in recent months.

In Thailand, Wildlife anti-trafficking group Freedland said it was the first time customs officials had found ivory coming into Thailand by boat and said it showed smugglers had changed tactics.

“It is another sign that steady collaboration by Thai and African law enforcement is foiling ivory traffickers who are losing huge amounts of money, and that’s where you have to hit them to stop them — in the pocket,” said the group’s director, Steven Galster.

Kenya has not sold ivory since 1989 and is determined to ensure trade in it is never legalised.

Tanzania and Zambia, who want to resume trade in ivory, were among countries that engaged Kenya at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species over the 2007 ban on its trade. Kenya succeeded in having the nine-year ban upheld.

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