NAIROBI, Oct 2 – Kenyan wildlife officials arrested an army officer on Wednesday for possession of elephant ivory in a rare crackdown on a fellow government employee.
“There is no exception to the law,” said Paul Udoto, spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), calling the arrest of the soldier “a special case”.
As in other parts of Africa, poaching of both elephants and rhinos has risen sharply in Kenya in recent years.
Organised and armed criminal gangs are regularly blamed, but corrupt government officials are also accused of turning a blind eye or even of active involvement in smuggling.
“Whatever the person’s position or job, even if it is someone from KWS, if they have committed a crime they will have their day in court,” Udoto added.
The 44-year old soldier, who has served in the army for 23 years, was arrested after a tip-off from a member of the public, Udoto added.
He was arrested in possession of three pieces of ivory weighing seven kilogrammes.
He is due to appear in a Nairobi court on Thursday.
Africa is now home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching as well as population expansion and increasing urbanisation encroaching on natural habitats.
The illegal ivory trade, estimated to be worth up to $10 billion a year, is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East.
Elephant tusks are used to make ornaments and rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine.