Another Massive Ivory Seizure in Kenya

Following on from at least 7.7 tonnes of ivory seized by authorities worldwide in the last six weeks of 2012, this week vigilant customs and wildlife officials seized more than 3.8 tonnes of raw ivory in a container in the port of Mombasa bound initially for Indonesia, but with a probable further destination in the Far East. The seizure consisted of 638 tusks and pieces. Customs officials are now trying to track down the owners of the shipment as well as the clearing agents. Two weeks ago, officials in Hong Kong also seized more than a tonne of ivory in a shipment from Kenya.

Yet again, it seems that the consignment originated in Tanzania, a country thought to be losing as many as 10,000 elephants a year from its estimated 110,000 elephants in 2009. The Kenyan government is mounting a number of actions in an effort to curb the escalating trend in elephant poaching following two recent developments - the elephant populations in Samburu / Laikipia have declined significantly and what has been described as Kenya’s worst elephant poaching incident, where a family of 12 elephants were killed in Tsavo last week. These recent incidents are leading to upscaled anti-poaching, including improved screening methods at Kenyan ports as well as a call from the government for outside assistance to fight illegal wildlife trade.

Ivory trade was banned in 1989 under CITES, but recently there has been an alarming increase in wild elephant deaths due to the illegal ivory trade. There are widespread fears about the long-term future of elephant populations across Africa. 

The upcoming CITES meeting in March in Bangkok will once again provide an opportunity for elephant range states to defend their positions with regards to the degree of trade control necessary to curb elephant poaching. This trade is fuelled by demands in Asia in particular where ivory and rhino horn are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicine. Many strongly believe that the time has come to ban the ivory trade for good if the world’s elephants are to have a future.

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