Police arrested a foreigner with 19.5 kilograms of ivory as she attempted to leave Kenya on Christmas Day.
The 32-year-old woman travelling on a Thai passport, had hidden the illegal ivory in two suitcases but was detected by sniffer dogs.
She was preparing to board a plane to Bangkok, Thailand, when she was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The suspect had arrived from Maputo, Mozambique.
Kenya Airports Police unit CID boss Joseph Ngisa said she would be charged at the Makadara law courts on Monday.
“Our officers were conducting normal operation, screening luggage and searching travellers when they discovered the illegal products,” the Kenya Wildlife Service public relations officer Paul Udoto said.
Her luggage contained 105 pieces of ivory bangles, necklaces and two elephant tusks.
“A seven-year-old boy and a man who were on the same flight were released after initial investigations didn’t link them to the illegal cargo,” said Mr Udoto.
The arrest comes barely two weeks after a Singaporean traveling from Lilongwe, Malawi, was arrested at the airport with 92 kilograms of ivory.
He too was travelling preparing to board a plane to Thailand.
KWS has deployed sniffer dogs at the airports to boost detection of ivory being smuggled.
Ivory trade is banned to prevent poaching of elephants, one of wildlife’s endangered species. Last year, 14 suspected poachers were killed in armed confrontations with KWS rangers. Thirteen firearms and 302 rounds of ammunitions were recovered.
Mr Udoto said 178 elephants died through poaching in 2010 compared to 204 in 2009.
On seizures, he added 759 pieces of ivory weighing 2,819 kilograms have been recovered since January.
“KWS is engaging in massive force modernisation, strengthening of investigations, enhancing policing of exit and entry points especially airports, seaports and other border points.” Said Mr Udoto.
Investigations into the illegal ivory trade have shown Kenya is a safe route for smuggling cartels, but they have cleared the country of being the source of elephant tusks and ivory products seized in various parts of the world in recent months.
In one of the cases 2,000 kilograms of elephant tusks seized in Vietnam in May came from Selous National Park, one of the biggest conservation centres in Tanzania.
Cables sent from the US embassy in Nairobi accuse the Chinese of poaching Kenya’s wildlife.
Kenya has not sold ivory since 1989 and has since accumulated 60 tonnes of ivory 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.
The trafficking of game trophies through Kenya has exposed the lax surveillance at the country’s entry and exit points.