Kenya both a source and route for illegal ivory
Posted Monday, July 23 2012 at 23:30
- International Fund for Animal Welfare accuses Kenya of perpetuating illegal trade after more than half a tonne of ivory from Kenya is seized by customs officials in two Asian countries
It’s hardly a year since the government conducted a high profile burning of tonnes of ivory recovered from smugglers in a bid to deter poachers from killing the country’s elephants.
Now a wildlife conservation organisation has kicked up a storm over increased ivory trafficking from Kenya to Asian countries.
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Eastern Africa regional director James Isiche said Kenya was culpable in perpetuating the illegal trade.
This comes in the wake of the news that more than half a tonne of ivory was seized by customs officials in two Asian countries last week.
Thai customs officials discovered 456 kg of ivory which had been hidden in crates aboard a flight from Kenya on Friday last week.
Earlier in the week, the director said, Vietnam customs officials had arrested two Vietnamese passengers who had 137 kilogrammes of ivory from Africa.
The smugglers had transported the consignment from Angola through Kenya before heading to the lucrative black market in Asia.
Praising the Thai and Vietnam customs officials for a job well done in the seizure of the hauls and apprehension of the suspects involved, he warned that Kenya was becoming culpable in the smuggling of ivory into the illegal markets.
“Cases of elephant poaching are on the rise in Kenya, and it is now emerging that the country is not only a source of illegal ivory, but has also become one of the smuggling routes of choice for traffickers,” he said.
He said the two seizures was a fraction of the ivory trafficked out of Africa into the large illegal markets in Asia, with most contraband going undetected.
“While Kenyan authorities have in the past done a commendable job in impounding ivory at various exit points in the country, the trend of seizures in the last one and half years has been worrying,” he said.
The director in his statement, said that there was need and an urgency for all authorities in Kenya and other elephant range states to protect elephants from poachers as well as to seal off their routes to deter criminal gangs involved in this vice.
This comes a few days after IFAW sounded an alarm, accusing Cape Town in South Africa of becoming an ivory transit point after 46 elephant tusks were found hidden in boxes of wine destined for Hong Kong.
The director said that this was the fifth ivory-related incident linked to the South African city since November 2011.
Demand for ivory in China and other Asian countries is largely to blame for the rising elephant poaching in Africa, a situation Mr Isiche says is a threat to wildlife conservation.
He regretted that this was happening after his organisation trained more than 1,300 law enforcement officers from several Africa, Middle East, Asia, Oceania and Caribbean countries in the crusaders of anti poaching.
Two weeks ago, residents of Taita Taveta through their spokesman Mr Mwandawiro Mbela, threatened to take the KWS to court over increased livestock grazing in Tsavo East and Tsavo West saying that it was degrading the environment and threatened wildlife habitat.