NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – WildlifeDirect wants the government to start an investigation into the 3.7 tonnes of ivory and exotic animal products seized in Singapore Tuesday.
WildlifeDirect Chief Executive Officer Paula Kahumbu said the investigation should also be extended to the 511 elephant tusks seized in Thailand on April, 25.
“We call on the President to order for the immediate investigation and prosecution of any government official found to have been negligent or complicit in the transiting of the ivory seized in both in Thailand and Singapore,” she said.
She expressed concern that smuggling of ivory and other animal products in Kenya was a worrying trend not just because of the colossal amounts but also the frequency with which they were being seized.
Of concern was that only in March this year, President Uhuru Kenyatta burnt 15 tonnes of ivory at the Nairobi National Park.
According to Kahumbu, whereas commendable actions have been taken to avert wildlife crimes, the rate at which animal products are being harvested and transported to other countries means there are gaps that have not been addressed.
For example, lack of coordination among government agencies could be a contributing factor as explained by Kahumbu.
“The seizures are a testament to the lack of coordination – or to the complicity – of the different arms of government that should have detected the ivory and taken action,” she asserted.
According to the activist, stern action should be taken against the officials manning the Port of Mombasa which was the exit point of the ivory and animal products seized in Singapore and Thailand.
“On the one hand, we are burning ivory and enacting punitive laws for those caught committing wildlife crimes. But on the other hand, there are no consistent and persistent actions to rid the Port of Mombasa the title of being the leading port in the trafficking of ivory in the world,” Kahumbu explained.
She further asked the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, Kenya Police Service and Kenya Ports Authority to explain how the animal products left the country and the steps being undertaken to uncover individuals involved in the crimes.
She recommended for a national stock take of the entire ivory stockpile conducted before it is destroyed and also a clear framework of storage and destruction of rhino and elephant horn established during and after trial proceedings of cases involving such crimes.
Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority on Tuesday netted animal parts worth $6 million (Sh578mn) stashed in bags of tea leaves in two 20-foot containers while transiting through the city state of Vietnam from Kenya.
Some 1,783 pieces of raw ivory tusk were hidden in the bags together with four pieces of rhino horn and 22 teeth believed to be from African cheetahs and leopards.
According to the authorities, 3.7 tonnes haul was the largest seizure of illegal ivory in Singapore since 2002 when six tonnes of ivory were intercepted.
Last month Customs Department in Thailand ‘seized 511 elephant tusks which on the contrary had been declared at the customs office as 11 tonnes of tea leaves from Kenya destined for Laos’.