Thursday, June 5, 2014

Kenya: Authorities Seize 228 Whole Elephant Tusks, 74 Others in Mombasa, Demand Coming from Asia

According to Reuters, Kenyan authorities seized 228 whole elephant tusks and 74 others in pieces as they were being packed for export in the port city of Mombasa, police and wildlife officials said.

Poaching has surged in recent years across sub-Saharan Africa, where gangs kill elephants and rhinos to fulfill Asian demand for ivory and horns for use in traditional medicine. 

Wildlife authority Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers and police confiscated the ivory in a raid at a warehouse in the port city of Mombasa, KWS said in a statement.

“The ivory was ... was being prepared for loading and export to a destination we have yet to establish," Nelson Marwa, Mombasa County commissioner, told journalists in Mombasa.

COMMENT: Police arrested one suspect and were searching for another who escaped, Marwa said, noting that the suspect in custody tried to bribe police officers by offering them 5 million shillings ($57,100).

Arthur Tuda, KWS officer in charge of the coastal region, said some of the ivory could have come from as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“From the coloration of the tusks, we can estimate that the ivory is from different sources," he said, saying some appeared to be from elephants from Kenya's savannah and others from Congolese forests.

Kenya has imposed stiffer penalties, longer jail terms and larger fines for wildlife poaching or trafficking, saying poaching is harming tourism, a major earner of foreign exchange. 

KWS said in March 2014 that Kenya poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants this year alone. In 2013, 59 rhinos and 302 elephants were killed, compared with 30 rhinos and 384 elephants in 2012.

Kenyan officers seized 13.5 tons of ivory in Mombasa last year, mostly originating in other countries in the region. At least 249 suspects have so far been arrested this year and prosecuted for various wildlife offenses, KWS said.

In January, a Kenyan court convicted a Chinese national of smuggling ivory and ordered him to pay a fine of 20 million shillings ($233,000) or serve seven years in jail, the first sentencing since Kenya introduced the new anti-poaching law.