Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Kenya used as illegal ivory trade route

 Thai customs officials inspect confiscated tusks during a press conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport on July 16. The officers seized 117 tusks that had passed through Kenya without being detected. File | AFP

Thai customs officials inspect confiscated tusks during a press conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport on July 16. The officers seized 117 tusks that had passed through Kenya without being detected. File | AFP 

By FRED MUKINDA and BENJAMIN MUINDI

Kenya has become a safe route for cartels involved in illegal ivory trade.

Investigations have, however, cleared Kenya of being the source of elephant tusks and ivory products seized in parts of the world in recent months.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), working with Interpol, is now trying to identify key people running the cartels responsible for the dwindling number of elephants.

The trafficking of game trophy through Kenya has exposed the relaxed surveillance at the country’s entry and exit points.

Investigations show that the 2,000 kilogrammes of elephant tusks seized in Vietnam in May came from Selous National Park, one of the biggest conservation centres in Tanzania.

However, the consignment was shipped through the port of Mombasa.

The officer in charge of species at KWS, Mr Patrick Omondi, said DNA samples and other investigations had cleared Kenya as the source.

Tanzania and Zambia were among countries that engaged Kenya in a face-off at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species over trade in ivory. Kenya succeeded in having the ban on the trade upheld.

Another 48 tusks were seized on Nairobi’s Thika Road in a lorry, three weeks later. A Korean and two Kenyans have been charged in connection with the offence.

Mr Omondi said initial findings of investigations that are going on show that Uganda was the source.

“I can assure you none of the tusks seized so far came from our parks. Kenya has a stockpile of 60 tonnes accumulated from 1990,” he said.

“The stocks are heavily guarded and the place is not accessible to unauthorised persons,” he said.

The most recent seizure of illegal ivory was at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Thailand on Wednesday last week.

In an interview, Kenya Revenue Authority commissioner Michael Waweru blamed failure to intercept the cargo at Kenya airports and ports on laxity of customs officers and security agencies.

“It is largely a failure on both our part and the security agencies although KRA is not able to do 100 per cent verification of all items,” he said.

advertisement