Kenya police find record haul of smuggled ivory

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2013 3:34 PM

By Joseph Akwiri

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Police in Kenya have seized two tonnes of ivory worth 100 million shillings ($1.15 million), the biggest haul on record in the east African country, officials said on Tuesday.

"This is a big catch, the biggest ever single seizure of ivory at the port of Mombasa," said Kiberenge Seroney, the port's police officer in charge of criminal investigations.

"We fail to understand where one gathers the courage to park such enormous quantities of ivory, hoping that they can slip through our security systems."

Poaching is a growing problem for sub-Saharan African countries reliant on rich wildlife in their game reserves to draw foreign tourists.

Heavily-armed criminals kill elephants and rhinos for their tusks, which are used for ornaments and in some folk medicines. Most of the elephant tusks smuggled from Africa ends up in Asian countries, according to police.

On January 5, poachers killed a family of 11 elephants in the biggest single mass shooting of the animals on record in Kenya, wildlife officials said.

Gitau Gitau, an assistant commissioner with the Kenya Revenue Authority, said paperwork accompanying a container at the port of Mombasa declared it contained decorative stones.

"But when we opened it we found elephant tusks," said Gitau as he displayed the ivory. "The ivory was originating from Rwanda and Tanzania and was to be exported to Indonesia."

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)