Sunday, May 9, 2010

Ivory seized in Vietnam linked to Kenya

By NATION Reporter and Agencies

Security agencies and the Kenya Wildlife Service have launched investigations to establish the source of two tonnes of elephant tusks seized in Vietnam.

The consignment is believed to have originated from Kenya. Initial investigations indicated that the ivory haul was shipped through the port of Mombasa.

“So far we have information that the seized cargo passed through Kilindini harbour and investigations are ongoing,” said KWS corporate affairs manager Paul Udoto.

Mr Udoto said KWS, together with the Lusaka Agreement Task Force, the Vietnamese embassy in Tanzania and Interpol, were still investigating the paper track involved in transporting the ivory consignment, the biggest to be linked to Kenya in recent times.

“It might become necessary to do DNA tests to conclusively determine the ivory’s actual country of origin,” Mr Udoto said.

Media reports indicated that the haul was destined for China. Customs officials claimed that the ivory was illegally imported from Kenya.

The tusks were hidden in 400 plastic sacks and covered with dry seaweed, said the VNExpress online news site, citing the customs department.

It said the tusks were found in two containers at northern Haiphong port on Tuesday. Customs officials declined to comment when reached by AFP.

There is a booming black market in African ivory linked to Asian crime syndicates, delegates said in March at a UN wildlife trade meeting.

Banned

Ivory trade has been banned since 1989, with the exception of a few one-time sales, but there has been a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005.

Officials in Vietnam seized up to five tonnes of elephant tusks smuggled from Tanzania in March last year, state media said at the time.
Last July, six businessmen were charged with smuggling 11 tonnes of ivory in Tanzania.

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