Two held as KWS seizes ivory cargo at Nairobi airport

PHOTO/FILE
KWS director Julius Kipngetich shows tonnes of elephant tusks in seized in Nairobi.

What you need to know:

  • The 312 pieces of tusks could have been collected over a period of 20 years, says agency

Police are holding two people who were arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at the weekend with two tonnes of elephant tusks and five rhino horns.

The two Kenyans were intercepted as they prepared to ferry the consignment to Malaysia.

Dogs from the Kenya Wildlife Service JKIA Canine Unit unearthed the trophies that were marked as avocado, complete with fruits to disguise.

They were packed in 12 wooden boxes, whose weight and packaging drew the curiosity of warehouse security officials who alerted the unit that set the dogs upon the goods.

KWS director Julius Kipngetich said that the 312 pieces of tusks and horns could have been collected over a period of up to 20 years, since they were of different ages.

“Some are pretty old; others as recent as six months old,” Dr Kipngetich told a press conference held at the Nairobi National Park, a few metres from the site where former president Daniel Moi torched 12 tonnes of ivory over two decades ago.

During Monday’s function, KWS paraded the seized trophies, some of which had cut edges indicating that they could have been poached, while others could have been pulled from dead, rotting animals.

He, however stated that the trophies, which had transmitters, indicating that they were tagged, were not part of government stocks stashed away in stores since they did not have the indelible ink that characterise them.

The latest seizure, the largest in recent times, follows interception of consignments of animal trophies from the country that were destined for Thailand, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

Direct flights on the Middle and Far East routes, the KWS boss said, makes Kenya a preferred gateway for the poachers.

The fact that the consignment was meant to be transported by air, an expensive undertaking, indicated that a cartel could be behind the activity.

Since the destruction of ivory in 1989, the government has been piling up all the ivory seized over the years in stores managed by KWS.

Dr Kipngetich said that the incident did not indicate failure on the part of the organisation, since it is its security apparatus that intercepted the consignment.

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