Kenya Ivory Seizure Highlights US Crackdown on Illegal Wildlife Trade
Less than two days after US President Barack Obama announced a crackdown on illegal wildlife trade, the seizure of nearly 1.5 tonnes of ivory in Mombasa, Kenya has highlighted the need for an urgent response to a global calamity.
The ivory, a mix of worked and raw ivory was found concealed in a shipping container marked as holding dried fish. The container was intercepted at Mombasa Port. According to Kenya law enforcement officials its country of origin was Uganda, and the container was en route to Malaysia.
East Africa has been identified as a major source and trafficking route for poached ivory. This latest seizure brings to over five tonnes the amount of ivory linked to Kenya seized so far this year. Nearly 3.5 tonnes of ivory were seized in January 2013 (two tonnes were seized in Mombasa port and a further tonne, shipped from Mombasa, was seized in Hong Kong). In May Dubai authorities seized 259 elephant tusks concealed in a container shipped from Mombasa.
“The killing of elephants for their ivory is a global calamity,” said James Isiche, IFAW Regional Director – East Africa (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org). “This latest seizure coming so soon after President Obama’s announcement, throws into stark reality the need for a real commitment by the international community to take action against illegal wildlife trade.”
On Monday, President Obama announced he was elevating the US Government’s engagement in the fight against illegal wildlife trade. The announcement was made in Tanzania, the final stop on his three country tour of Africa. Last year IFAW predicted that East Africa – Kenya and Tanzania in particular – was establishing a reputation as both a conduit and source for large consignments of illegal ivory.
“Incidences of elephant poaching in Kenya are on the rise, and it is clear that the country is a growing smuggling route for traffickers,” said James Isiche, IFAW East Africa Regional Director.
“President Obama’s announcement coupled with the hardline approach taken by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta towards the scourge of poaching and trafficking raises some hope for a real fight back against those killing elephants for their ivory and the illegal trade of wildlife.
“It is clear that elephants are under more threat today, than they have been in years. 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,” said Isiche.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.
As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean. The organization recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol, the first ever signed by Interpol’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and Interpol have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.
A new IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people.
The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW’s digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade.
About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter