Two tons of illegal ivory confiscated en route from Uganda
Last week, an unaccompanied cargo of two tons of ivory and five rhino horns left Uganda’s Entebbe airport and was intercepted by Kenyan authorities in Nairobi.
A total of 317 pieces of elephant tusk were seized.Most of the tusks seem to have been collected from natural deaths of about 150 elephants over the last 20 years, the most recent being just six months old.
The cargo, which was falsely declared as containing only fresh avocados, was packed in 12 wooden crates. The authorities were suspicious of the way the so-named fruits were packaged, the weight of the consignment and their intended destination of Malaysia.
One of the suspects in the operation was charged in a Nairobi court on Tuesday while the main owner of the consignment is still on the run. Investigators are following up on the vehicle that transported the contraband and its driver. The second suspect, who was an employee of a freight company, was released after questioning.
Kenya Wildlife Service and regional wildlife group Lusaka Agreement Task Force are in the process of contacting the Uganda Wildlife Authorities to help with investigation on the source of the contraband and how it slipped through Entebbe Airport unnoticed.
A total of three seizures of illegal ivory from Uganda and Mozambique were made at Kenya's main airport in Nairobi in one week.
In the same week, a Chinese national was jailed for 18 months in Nairobi for attempting to smuggle 10 illegal worked ivory chopping sticks and two bangles.
Source: Kenya Broadcasting Corporation, August 26, 2010
Comment from UCF
Poaching elephants for ivory is at its highest levels since the 1989 ivory ban. UCF believes that the sale of ivory products exacerbates the poaching problem.
Pictured are elephant tusks seized in Singapore in 2002. In this haul, 6.5 tons of ivory were seized. Images courtesy of the Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington
Dr Samuel K. Wasser, Director of the Centre for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, said there was a clear link between one-off sales and the rise in poaching. He says the sales revive dormant markets by sending consumers the message that it is acceptable in general to once again buy ivory and make it difficult to differentiate between legal and illegal products.
UCF are working with Dr Wasser to analyse and map elephant DNA across Uganda for the INTERPOL database that can pinpoint - and thus target law enforcement to - the exact origin of confiscated ivory. To read more about this landmark, high profile international project, click here - Elephant DNA Sampling
Funding is urgently sought to complete the last stage of the Elephant DNA project. PLEASE DONATE ONLINE NOW.
Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring group, tracks ivory seizures and found that poaching and smuggling to markets mostly in Asia has risen steadily since 2004. They blame weak law enforcement in Africa and growing demand for ivory products like chopsticks and ivory.
A note about the rhino horns seized
Uganda is commonly used as a smuggling route from Sudan and the DRC, for example, which explains the presence of rhino horns in the shipment. In 1970 Uganda was home to 300 black rhinos and 120 white rhinos but by 1982 the rhino had been wiped out in Uganda. Poaching was the major factor behind the animal’s swift demise. Rhino horns can command up to one million US Dollars for their aphrodisiac properties (in parts of Asia) and for dagger handles (in the Middle East). In 2005 four Kenyan rhinos were brought to Uganda. Three rhino have now been born at the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in Nakasongola and the long-term aim of the project is reintroduction of the species into Uganda’s Protected Areas.