MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) — A Kenyan court released the suspected leader of an ivory trafficking ring on bail Friday, causing an uproar among conservationists who fear he may flee or tamper with witnesses.
Magistrate Davis Karani released the suspect, Feisal Mohamed Ali, on a $100,000 bond at a Mombasa court after eight months in custody. New circumstances, including prosecutors' requests for more time, persuaded authorities to release him pending further investigation, Karani said.
A leading Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu expressed disappointment, saying on Twitter that "witnesses and evidence will not be safe."
"The scale of his alleged crimes — over 150 elephants were poached. Tragic? Disgusting? Unbelievable," Kahumbu tweeted.
A court granted Ali bail in March, but that was overturned on appeal by the Director of Public Prosecutions. He was arrested in December in Tanzania in connection with illegal elephant tusks weighing more than 2 tons, found last year during a raid on the Kenyan coast.
Ali was listed by Interpol as one of Africa's most-wanted ivory traffickers.
By December, poachers had killed 142 elephants in Kenya, down from 302 in 2013 and 384 in 2012, out of an estimated population of 35,000, according to Kenya Wildlife Service.
The significant reduction in elephant killings was attributed to implementation of tougher anti-poaching laws in Kenya and international support from Interpol, China, the U.S., Britain and Canada, among other factors.
In February, China imposed a one-year ban on ivory imports that took immediate effect amid criticism that its citizens' huge appetite for ivory has fueled poaching. Demand for ivory from China's rising middle class and demand for rhino horn in Vietnam are imperiling two of Africa's most iconic creatures.
This version corrects name the name Mohammed to Mohamed.