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Illegal elephant ivory seized at JKIA

Date Published: 09 May, 2011
Illegal elephant ivory seized at JKIA

Director KWS, Mr. Julius Kipng’etich(right) with a member of the Friends of Nairobi National Park, (FONNAP) Ms. Paula Kahumbu view elephant tusks at the ivory burning site in Nairobi National Park

Illegal ivory destined for West Africa and purported to be from two non-existent embassies based in Nairobi was on May 5, 2011 seized at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The 115 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 1,304kg packed in 14 metal boxes had been disguised as diplomatic baggage. However, they were detected and seized at about 9.30pm by a joint security team comprising the Kenya Airports Police Unit, the Kenya Revenue Authority (Customs Department), and the Kenya Wildlife Service following a tip off from the public.

The contraband, which was destined for Lagos, Nigeria and labelled as originating from Brunei (island in Asia) and Papua New Guinea (South West Pacific Ocean island) embassies in Nairobi had been brought to the airport by unidentified people. Out of the 14 boxes, three were purported to be from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea while 11 were purported from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Brunei.

This incident follows closely a recent seizure where 2,033kg was intercepted by Thai Customs officials at Bangkok seaport on March 30, 2011. This had been shipped through the Mombasa sea port.   The  elephant tusks valued at over Sh274 million being smuggled through a Bangkok port from Kenya was hidden in a shipment of frozen fish.
The amount of ivory seized may be equated to at least 123 elephants killed but it is not clear if all the animals were poached in Kenya if at all.

The 247 tusks, some up to two metres long, were found during an X-ray scan of a shipping container labeled as frozen mackerel among 100 boxes in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya river. A joint team of law enforcement agencies is conducting further investigations to establish the true origin of the consignments and the suspects behind them. This includes elaborate DNA testing of the ivory to determine its actual origin.  According to our records, the number of illegally killed elephants in 2010 was 187 while this year as at April it is 80 elephants.In response to the poaching and illegal trafficking in wildlife trophies challenge, KWS is implementing wide-ranging reforms. We are also strengthening linkages with other law enforcement agencies and international cooperation.
KWS would like to express its sincere appreciation to the other law enforcement agencies involved in this operation and the support from the public which led to the seizure.At the same time, KWS would like to reiterate its call for the fast tracking of the passing of the new wildlife policy and Bill to provide for more deterrent sentences, inter-agency collaboration to fight the crime.Poaching of elephants in central and eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia.

Kenya Wildlife Services director Julius Kipngetich said then they intended to introduce sniffer dogs at the Mombasa port as part of measures to curb the illegal shipping of the ivory.International trade in ivory was banned in 1989, but seizures have risen dramatically in the past five years.

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