MOMBASA, Kenya, June 6, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Police at the coastal city of Mombasa have seized 300 elephant tusks. The tusks were seized when police and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials broke into a warehouse where the tusks were being packaged in nylon and sisal sacks for export. One suspect was arrested and was expected to be arraigned in court this morning while another escaped and is being sought by police. It is alleged that the arrested suspect tried to bribe police officers.
In January 2014 Kenya's Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill 2013 which offers stiffer jail sentences and massive fines was enacted. In the new Bill those convicted of offences relating to endangered and threatened species are liable to fines of not less than 10 million Kenyan shillings (approximately USD 114,000.00) or to imprisonment of not less than 15 years or both.
Despite these punitive measures, illegal wildlife trafficking and poaching continues unabated. KWS states that in 2013, poachers killed 302 elephants and 59 rhinoceros; in 2012 384 elephants and 30 rhinoceros were killed. So far this year 51 elephants and 18 rhinoceros have been killed for their ivory and horn.
"While we congratulate the law enforcement agencies for undertaking this successful crackdown, the Kenya government must do more if the country is to shed its notoriety as the smuggling route of choice for ivory products," said James Isiche, Regional Director IFAW East Africa (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org). "Though the previous penalty for possession of ivory, a maximum of 30,000 shillings (USD 350), was not a deterrent at all vis-à-vis the prize of ivory, the new act has raised the penalty for offences relating to endangered species. There is now a need to ensure that the new law is effectively enforced by empowering the judiciary, wildlife enforcement and customs officials. The smugglers' curtails must be made to know that it is dangerous and expensive to use Kenya as a transit route for their contraband," he added.
According to an IFAW report Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, ivory smuggling and the wildlife trade has been linked to other forms of organized crime including terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking.
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 has 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.
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.
SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare