NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 22 –At least 345 pieces of elephant tusks weighing 745 kilograms were on Friday seized at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) by officials from the Kenya Wildlife Service and police officers on a routine check.
Police at the airport said the tusks were packed in six wooden crates and were disguised as spare parts.
“These elephant tusks were booked in as motor vehicle spare parts and they were headed to Lagos, Nigeria. They are weighing 700 kilograms,” Airport police Chief Joseph Ngisa said.
An official at the airport said they had not counted the tusks, but the process was underway late Friday.
Nobody had been arrested by late Friday but police said they will track down the person or persons who delivered them at the airport.
“We will definitely get them, we have not arrested any one at the moment,” Ngisa said.
KWS Spokesman Paul Mbugua said the tusks were discovered by their officials jointly with police officers who were on a routine check at the cargo section.
“They were detected by sniffer dogs, they were covered in pepper to ensure they are not immediately detected, but this did not work,” Mbugua said on telephone.
At an earlier press briefing here in Nairobi, Mbugua had said they were working out to have a forensic laboratory put up to enable them know the source of the tusks.
“We will soon start construction of a forensic laboratory here which will help establish the source of ivory through use of DNA techniques. Right now whatever is captured and impounded at various points is not easy to tell (origin),” he said.
The KWS had reported that 133 elephants and 11 rhinos had been poached in Kenyan parks since January this year.
In the past one week alone, KWS rangers have recovered six rifles, one pistol, 109 rounds of ammunition, three pieces of elephant tusks weighing six kilograms and 52 kilos of game meat.
“We are also determined that Kenya is not used as a transit for illegal wildlife products as provided for by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of wild fauna and flora,” Mbugua said.
Mbugua attributed the high incident of poaching particularly for ivory in the elephant range states to growing demand for ivory in the international market.
“Going forward we intend to strengthen our law enforcement to secure wildlife through dedicated programmes such as force modernisation whereby we intend to equip our ranger teams with the state of art equipment to ensure that they are up to the task of combating poachers,” he stated.
KWS has collaborated with national, regional and international security agencies to contain illegal wildlife trade and so far since January, 1,179 suspects have been arrested and charged.
40 rifles and 770 rounds of ammunition have also been recovered including other crude weapons like poisoned arrows, bows, snares, spears and axes in possession of poachers.
“In order to win this war, we wish to enlist the support of communities living with wildlife to volunteer information on poachers to enable us stamp out the vice,” Mbugua said.