Panafrican News Agency

Kenyan police seize Nigeria-bound ivory haul

Nairobi, Kenya (PANA) - An investigation into the poaching of elephants has been opened in Kenya after airport police seized 1,400 kgs of ivory destined for Lagos, Nigeria, amid growing suspicion over flourishing trade on endangered species.

Kenyan investigators said Friday that X-ray machines at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, led to the discovery of the elephant tusks as the clearing agents were waiting to receive the airbill for the Lagos-bound consignment.

The consignment was disguised as diplomatic cargo, ostensibly originating from the Embassy of Brunei in Nairobi.

Police and airport staff immediately suspected foul play because there is no embassy of Brunei in Kenya.

Police believe the cargo may have originated from within the country and may have involved the killing of at least 50 elephants.

“We are yet to know the source of this cargo for now. We really want to know. This is of interest to our country,” a senior airport police officer told journalists.

“There was something fishy,” a police spokeswoman told journalists, stressing the shipment was packed in 40 steel cartons to avoid the possibility of police sniffer dogs raising alarm on the cargo. She said the cargo was found on the side of imports.

Police in Kenya routinely arrest foreign nationals transiting through Nairobi with quantities of ivory, most of it either obtained locally in Kenya, Tanzania or the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The latest ivory burst came amid a parliamentary probe into the near successful trafficking of 2,000 kgs, or two tonnes of ivory to Thailand.

The ivory, valued at approximately US$ 3.3 million, was smuggled to the port of Bangkok from Kenya, disguised as frozen fish.

About least 247 elephant tusks were found neatly packed up in the container from Kenya.

Kenyan Wildlife Services (KWS), a paramilitary wing established by the Kenyan government to help in the protection of the country’s vast wildlife resources, the key to the country’s successful pitch for more tourists, is worried by the emerging new trends.

KWS Director Julius Kipngetich said Friday authorities were planning to beef up airport security in Mombasa, to stop the smuggling of wildlife resources.

The upsurge of huge quantities being seized points to a thriving international trade in ivory and allied products and a fresh upsurge in trophy hunting.

Analysts predicted earlier, when Southern African nations won a diplomatic battle, to allow the partial sale of ivory stockpiles to pay for the cost of elephant conservation that the ivory markets would begin to attract illegal ivory from other markets.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) imposed the ban on trade in ivory in 1989, leading to huge stockpiles of ivory in Zimbabwe, currently estimated at 42 tonnes.
-0- PANA AO/BOS 7May2011