29 Elephant Tusks Seized in Northern Kenya

Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Nairobi, Kenya

Twenty-nine elephant tusks and three AK-47 rifles were recovered yesterday after a three-month long sting operation in Samburu East in Northern Kenya, some 450 kilometres from Nairobi.

The operation, which involved Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers, Namunyak Wildlife Conservation Trust (NWCT) scouts, and the local administration, began with the arrest of two Kenyan Somali poachers and one from the local community. An estimated eight other poachers escaped.  

“Some of the tusks appear to have been sawed off from the elephants,” said Titus Letaapo of NWCT. The three suspects were charged in court and released soon after paying a small fine, which is like a slap on the wrist and does not act as a deterrent at all, according to Letaapo.

“We have noted an increase in elephant poaching in this area since last December. It has been tough, but we must protect these elephants at all costs.”

Towards the end of last April, 700 kg of ivory were seized by KWS officials close to the Kenya-Tanzania border. James Isiche, Director of IFAW’s Regional Office in East Africa, is raising the red flag over an escalation of elephant poaching incidents in the region.

“It is scary. The rate at which African ivory is being seized by law enforcement officers is almost unprecedented. There is need for urgent action to arrest this situation. Otherwise, elephants, which have been on the brink in the past, will be history.   

“IFAW strongly maintains that ivory trade anywhere is a threat to elephants everywhere. The correlation between this rise in elephant poaching and ivory seizures and the one-off sale of stockpiles by CITES can no longer be ignored,” said Isiche.

These poaching incidents comes barely five months after the sale of 108 tonnes of ivory stocks from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe having been sanctioned the first time in nearly ten years by the UN-backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Ivory seizures have been rampant in the couple of months, with over six tonnes seized in Vietnam, smuggled in from Tanzania and one tonne seized in Thailand from Uganda. Kenya has also experienced a series of poaching incidents since the start of the year, including in Kenya’s most critical elephant habitat, Tsavo National Park.

To learn more about the critical elephant ivory issue, and to take action to save elephants, visit: www.ifaw.org today. 

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