Sh150m ivory haul seized at Kenyan port

Criminal Investigations Department officers view one of the elephant tusks found stocked in boxes loaded in a container at the Port of Mombasa December 2, 2011. The large consignment of elephant tusks worth Sh158 million was impounded by Kenya Revenue Authority officers GIDEON MAUNDU

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has seized a large consignment of elephant tusks worth Sh158 million at the Mombasa Port destined for export to the Far East.

The 465 pieces of ivory were packed in 60 well secured cartons and eight wooden crates.

The seizure comes just two months after 87 pieces of tusks weighing over 600 kilogrammes were confiscated, raising concerns over the busy port becoming a transit point for illegal ivory trade.

Speaking to journalists Saturday, KWS warden Arthur Tuda said the source of the tusks could not immediately be established.

"This dealer sources his consignment from various parts in Uganda, Tanzania and possibly Zimbabwe, then packages them in Nairobi for export,” he said.

The consignment arrived in Mombasa from Nairobi on November 28, Kenya Revenue Authority officials said.

According to Mr Tuda, before the suspected cargo was impounded, KWS had tracked it for three weeks.

“After our investigators alerted us about the consignment, KWS wrote to the KRA Commissioner of Customs asking for full verification to establish the contents of the container,” Mr Tuda said.

The agent who processed the documents, Calbens Conveyors Limited declared the tusks as soapstone handicrafts and destined to Cambodia, said Kennedy Onyonyi who is in charge of marketing and communications at KRA.

“The suspected container was singled out for scanning which revealed its contents after which we had to subject it to 100 per cent verification,” he said, adding that the agent had immediately been suspended until investigations are carried out.

The KWS assisted by the police detained the container at the port police post awaiting transfer to the Coast KWS headquarters for the final weight verification.

In July, President Kibaki torched nearly 5,000 tonnes of stockpiled ivory seized in Singapore nearly a decade ago which was smuggled from Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia.

The destruction followed an agreement reached by Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya under the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.

The task force is charged with implementing the 1992 Lusaka Agreement designed to help African law enforcement agencies tackle wildlife smuggling.

More than 472, 269 elephants roam Africa wild, but their survival is threatened by poaching and illegal trade in game trophy.