Ivory trade puts Kenya on spot

PHOTO | FILE KWS officer Simon Gitau inspects ivory that was seized in January at Mombasa in transit to Indonesia. Cites has been told to slap sanctions on Kenya and seven other countries for allegedly condoning the trade.

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  • Cites urged to slap sanctions on Nairobi and seven other states over tusks trade

Kenya and seven other nations risk being slapped with trade sanctions after an international lobby group accused them of condoning the sale of elephant tusks.

Elephant Trade Information System official Tom Milliken told the annual Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) conference in Bangkok, Thailand, that Kenya, Thailand, Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines and China had been identified as major players in the trade.

“Nations at the heart of an unprecedented surge in African elephant killings must be hit with heavy trade sanctions,” Mr Milliken said.

Crocodile skin

Reports prepared by his group since 1998 showed the eight nations had failed to institute adequate measures to curb ivory trade, the Etis official said.

“There has been no discernible impact from previous Cites measures and unless this summit takes this seriously, we are not going to win this thing.

“Ban these countries from all wildlife trade, including the hugely lucrative orchid and crocodile skin exports,” he said.

Though Cites official Tom de Meulenaer said sanctions were unlikely, he warned the countries of unspecified consequences.

He said, however, that “the effect of the ban on Thailand, Vietnam and China would be enormous since their dealings on orchid and crocodile skins alone are massive”.

A report in the UK-based Guardian newspaper last week said the slaughter of elephants had doubled in just a decade, while ivory seizures had tripled. Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are said to be source countries and also serve as conduits through which ivory is smuggled to Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines with Thailand and China as the destination countries.

Meanwhile, a team of Kenya Wildlife Service rangers and police officers is in hot pursuit of a gang of suspected poachers that escaped after a gunfight near Mwingi Town in Kitui County last Friday.

Twenty-one pieces of raw ivory weighing 91kg and a motorbike were seized. Another seven pieces weighing 30.6kg were found in the surrounding area.

And a Chinese citizen was arrested on Sunday night at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle ivory while in transit from Cotonou, Benin, to Guangzhou, China.

The arrest was by a joint security team of Kenya Airports Police Unit officers, Customs officials, Kenya Airways officials and KWS officials.

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