Known for trafficking of illicit drugs, Nigerians are now shifting gear into illegal ivory trade. On Thursday, Kenyan authorities nabbed illegal ivory destined for Lagos, Nigeria and purported to be from two non-existent embassies based in Nairobi.
The 115 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 1,304kg packed in 14 metal boxes had been disguised as diplomatic baggage. However, they were detected and seized at about 9.30pm by a joint security team comprising the Kenya Airports Police Unit, the Kenya Revenue Authority (Customs Department), and the Kenya Wildlife Service following a tip off from the public.
The contraband was labelled as originating from Brunei (island in Asia) and Papua New Guinea (South West Pacific Ocean island) embassies in Nairobi had been brought to the airport by unidentified people. Out of the 14 boxes, three were purported to be from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea while 11 were purported from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Brunei.
This incident follows closely a recent seizure where 2,033kg was intercepted by Thai Customs officials at Bangkok seaport on March 30, 2011. This had been shipped through the Mombasa sea port. The elephant tusks valued at over Sh274 million being smuggled through a Bangkok port from Kenya was hidden in a shipment of frozen fish.
According to Paul Udoto, communication manager at the Kenya Wildlife Service, the amount of ivory seized may be equated to at least 123 elephants killed but it is not clear if all the animals were poached in Kenya if at all. The 247 tusks, some up to two metres long, were found during an X-ray scan of a shipping container labeled as frozen mackerel among 100 boxes in a boat at Bangkok Port on the Chao Phraya river.
A joint team of law enforcement agencies is conducting further investigations to establish the true origin of the consignments and the suspects behind them. This includes elaborate DNA testing of the ivory to determine its actual origin.
According to records from the KWS, the number of illegally killed elephants in 2010 was 187 while this year as at April it is 80 elephants. In response to the poaching and illegal trafficking in wildlife trophies challenge, KWS is implementing wide-ranging reforms. We are also strengthening linkages with other law enforcement agencies and international cooperation.
Poaching of elephants in central and eastern Africa has intensified in recent years, with much of the illegal ivory exported to Asia. Kenya Wildlife Services director Julius Kipngetich said then they intended to introduce sniffer dogs at the Mombasa port as part of measures to curb the illegal shipping of the ivory.
International trade in ivory was banned in 1989, but seizures have risen dramatically in the past five years.
Source: Africa Science News