NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 1 – Police and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) personnel on Wednesday seized 61 tusks of raw ivory weighing 532 Kilograms at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
KWS Director Julius Kipng’etich said the ivory was intercepted at a Kenya Airways warehouse.
“The unaccompanied luggage was to be air-freighted to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on the way to Bangkok, Thailand,” he said adding that the ivory had been falsely declared as “POLISHING BENCH” in the Airway Bill and was packed in four boxes.
He said it appeared the ivory had been obtained illegally in the local market and according to documents received from Ethiopian Airlines, another consignment of 637 kg of ivory had been intercepted by Ethiopian authorities two days earlier at Addis Ababa.
“This consignment had also originated from JKIA destined to Bangkok via Addis Ababa by the same consignee,” he said.
The first consignment had been declared as “DYE POLISHING BENCH.”
This makes a total of 1,169 kg of ivory seized within two days in Addis Ababa and Nairobi, all suspected to be from Kenyan elephants.
Kenya and Ethiopia are signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which collaborate in enforcing the provisions which grant confiscation of illegally traded CITES listed wildlife and its products.
A senior police officer at the airport told Capital News that the consignment was unaccompanied when it was detected on Tuesday night.
“The consignment was intercepted as it was about to be transported out of the country. No person has been arrested but we would want to know who brought it to the airport and the people who were going to receive it at the final destination,” he said and revealed they were working with the International police in the probe.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Communications Manager Kentice Tikolo said their officials were conducting the investigations jointly with the police.
“Police and our personnel are working together and hopefully the suspects will be found,” she said.
Police believe some of the tusks recovered were acquired from Elephants which have died as a result of drought in the country.
In the past, illegally obtained trophies from Kenya are usually transited out of the country through porous borders, mainly in Moyale through to Ethiopia.
“The trophies would then find their way to the lucrative black markets in South East Asia,” a statement from KWS stated. Kenyan laws allow confiscation and seizure of illegal goods while in transit.
KWS said it has lately intensified surveillance at all the international airports in the country using sniffer and tracker dogs to enforce these provisions.
Dr Kipng’etich said a 24-hour surveillance system has been mounted at JKIA and will be extended to Mombasa and Eldoret, the other international points of exit from Kenya.
Poaching for elephant ivory has been on the rise across the continent since the partial lifting of international trade in ivory in 2007 to allow the one-off sale to China and Japan by four South African Countries-Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
KWS said Kenya has this year lost 125 elephants through poaching but most of the poached ivory has been recovered by KWS through security operations.
It estimates that 47 elephants were lost to illegal killings in the past two years.