, NAIROBI, May 13 – A top official in a Kenyan conservation group was on Monday charged with illegal possession of 19 kilogrammes of elephant ivory worth more than $20,000 (Sh1.6 million).
Susan Soila, 50, deputy director of the community development wing of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants , a not-for-profit organisation conserving wildlife in one of Kenya’s most famous national parks, was arrested on Sunday along with her son.
Both Soila and her son, Robert Ntawasa, 30, were charged on three counts of having ivory without permission, found in their car when police arrested them in Emali, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of the capital Nairobi.
They pled not guilty to all charges and were released on a bail of $2,350 each.
They allege that they were framed by members of the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service.
“The accused have been … spear heading conservation efforts,” lawyer Philip Murgor said. “This seems to have rubbed the Kenya Wildlife Service the wrong way.”
The case will be heard on June 17.
Last year poachers slaughtered 384 elephants in Kenya, up from 289 in 2011, according to official figures, from a total population of around 35,000. This year, poachers have already shot dead more than 75.