Mombasa Seizure Seals E Africa Reputation as Source for Dirty Ivory
The seizure of two tons of ivory in Mombasa, Kenya today has helped cement East Africa's growing reputation as a clearing house for the bloody illegal ivory trade.
Media today reported Kenya police had intercepted the largest ever haul of ivory at Mombasa port, two tons of elephant tusks worth US$1,5-million contained in a shipping container provided with fraudulent paper work and due for export to Indonesia.
“This is the second seizure in as many weeks that links to Kenya," said James Isiche, IFAW Regional Director – East Africa (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org). On 4 January 2013, Hong Kong port authorities confiscated more than a ton of ivory smuggled inside a container shipped from Kenya.
"IFAW congratulates the Kenya police on the interception of today's ivory consignment, but urges them to work even harder and in collaboration with other African elephant range States to seal off ivory trafficking routes."
Late last year IFAW predicted that East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania in particular – was fast establishing a reputation as both a conduit and source for large consignments of illegal ivory.
In October and November three loads of dirty ivory linked to Kenya and Tanzania were seized by authorities in Tanzania and Dubai and, in Hong Kong authorities seized nearly four tons of ivory worth US$3,5-million on board two ships from Tanzania and Kenya.
“It is clear that elephants are under more threat today, than they have been in years,” said Jason Bell, IFAW Director – Elephant Programme. “We need a completely coordinated effort by the international law enforcement community if we are to have any chance of success against the crime syndicates who are behind the slaughter of elephants for their ivory – between 25,000 and 50,000 in 2011 alone, and many more thousands in 2012.
“That includes swift DNA identification of seized ivory, so that we know how and where to point our efforts to prevent further poaching and close down transit routes for smuggled ivory. That kind of support for countries on the frontline of the war against elephant poaching is essential for success,” he said.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory China purchased from the stockpile sale from southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs. IFAW says an estimated 25,000-50,000 elephants were killed for their ivory in 2011.
Few animals are as threatened by wildlife trafficking as elephants. Earlier this year IFAW raised the alarm as hundreds of elephants were slaughtered in Cameroon. A recent report from IFAW makes it clear that Chinese demand, and demand in other Asian countries, is largely to blame.
This is part of a worldwide capacity building initiative by IFAW which trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. To date, more than 1,600 customs agents, wildlife officers and other government officials at the forefront of this struggle have been trained since 2006.