NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 17 – A 29-year-old Vietnamese national was on Tuesday arrested while trying to smuggle five rhino horns out of the country at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
The man was in transit from Maputo, Mozambique en-route to Hong Kong via Doha, Qatar.
Le Manh Cuong was detected and seized by a joint security team comprising the Kenya Airports Police Unit, Customs, Kenya Airport Authority, Kenya Airways and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).
Kenya Wildlife Service Spokesman Paul Muya told Capital FM News that he was found in possession of the five pieces of rhino horns weighing 20.1kgs packed in a hand-drawn suitcase stuffed with mattress cuttings to disguise the contraband.
The suspect was booked at the JKIA police station awaiting arraignment at the Makadara Law Courts on Wednesday.
Last month a Chinese national was sentenced to serve 31 months in jail after being convicted over charges relating to smuggling ivory from the country.
Muya says 39 foreigners, including nine Vietnamese and 19 Chinese nationals, have been arrested smuggling illegal wildlife products out of the country this year.
“The fight is on and we shall not relent until we win over this fight against poaching,” he said.
KWS has up-scaled Kenya’s ports surveillance in recent days to reign in on smugglers of illicit consignments of wildlife products.
The government is faced with a major challenge of poaching mainly targeting elephants and rhinos, sparking fears of a possible annihilation in the near future.
It has however intensified its fight against poaching by deploying a new anti poaching unit.
A report released on September 4 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicates that the ports of Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam are major transit points for ivory within the Eastern African region.
The report also indicated JKIA as a route used by poachers heading to other parts of the world.
The programme manager for the Threat Assessment for Eastern Africa (TOCTA) Gerhard Van Rooyen however says the Kenyan government has made major efforts compared to the rest of East African countries.
“Compared to the rest of East African countries, the Jubilee government has really tried to address the issue though a lot needs to be done,” he observed.
The report indicates that there are approximately 140,000 elephants in Eastern Africa today which is about one-third of the continental population.
“An estimated 73 percent of these are located in the United Republic of Tanzania and adding into the population is Kenya, South Sudan and Uganda,” it states.
“These four countries are the source of most of the illicit ivory harvested in the region.”
It says that Eastern Africa is seen as an important source of ivory, “but even more as a transit area.”
“In fact, the majority of the recent large seizures of illicit ivory made anywhere in the world were exported from either Kenya or Tanzania, largely through the big container ports in Mombasa and Dar-es-Salaam.”