No More Mr Nice Guy, as Kenya Courts Send Ivory Trafficker to Jail
Times were when, in response to a perfunctory admission of guilt, ivory traffickers would receive an equally perfunctory slap on the wrist or fine from Kenya’s courts.
So yesterday’s handing down of a two year and seven month jail sentence to a Chinese woman who plead guilty to attempting to smuggle 6.9 kgs of disguised ivory out of Kenya, has been hailed as a victory in fight against the illegal ivory trade.
“The setting of a custodial sentence against a foreign national is virtually unheard of,” said James Isiche, IFAW Regional Director - East Africa (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org).
“Is this is a case of No More Mr Nice Guy? IFAW and people of Kenya certainly hope so. Everyone has become tired of watching elephants die for ivory, while criminals walk away free or with a minor fine.”
IFAW said speed at which law enforcers and then the courts had responded to the case was breathtaking. The guilty party was sentenced just eight days after she was arrested. Chen Biemei had been caught trying to smuggle the ivory out of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and had disguised it in packaging identical to that of a local brand of macadamia nuts.
“Thus far the prosecution and sentencing parts of the Kenya judicial process have been the weak links in enforcement. Yesterday’s sentencing is to be applauded and IFAW urges the government of Kenya to, in future, put as much emphasis on these as it is doing for anti-poaching efforts,” said Isiche.
East Africa has been identified as a major source and trafficking route for poached ivory. So far this year, over eight tonnes of ivory seized worldwide has been linked to Kenya.
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 from 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.
Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated US$19- billion per year, and poaching and worldwide insecurity is connected. Often, the proceeds are used to fund and arm rebel and militia groups who are willing to slaughter imperiled species and kill thousands of people to obtain elephant ivory, rhinoceros horn and other wildlife parts.
“The killing of elephants for their ivory is a global calamity,” said Isiche. “The best chance we have to stop illegal wildlife trade is a real commitment by the international community to take action.”
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)
IFAW is working to help protect elephants on the ground by supporting anti-poaching patrol trainings, working with Interpol to boost enforcement to fight wildlife trafficking and reducing demand for ivory through consumer awareness campaigns. IFAW is supporting the Indian Government in presenting the historic E50:50 Elephant Congress which will take place in New Delhi in November 2013, bringing together for the first time ministers from the 50 elephant range countries to address the conservation and welfare needs of elephants worldwide for the next 50 years.
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.