NEW BLOOD IVORY SEIZURE IN HONG KONG TRACED BACK TO KENYA
Reports are coming in from global conservation sources that authorities in Hong Kong have seized another 1.3 tons of blood ivory, stashed away in a container marked as being loaded with ‘architectural stones’ from Kenya. This latest find, the third major seizure of blood ivory in recent weeks, reveals the shocking level of smuggling and trading in ivory from poached elephant across the African continent.
While Tanzania has for long been at the centre of poaching in East Africa, a parliamentary report in mid of last year suggesting that as many as 30 elephant were being poached per day, Kenya and indeed Uganda have not been spared of the menace. Tanzania’s no nonsense Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Amb. Khamis Kagesheki, has of late led the efforts to crack down on poaching in Tanzania but it has been acknowledged that it will take time to win this battle after poaching was spinning out of control for too long.
Usually well informed source in Nairobi contacted about the shipment coming from Mombasa pointed out that the port, as indeed the international airport in Nairobi, was regularly being used as transit and exit point for contraband smuggled from third countries into Kenya. Kenya Wildlife Service in conjunction with Customs are now habitually screening air cargo in Nairobi using sniffer dogs, which has led to significantly increase confiscation and prosecutions in Kenya, but the latest find in Hong Kong of a container shipped from Mombasa via Malaysia shows that more needs to be done.
The forthcoming meeting of CITES in the Thai capital Bangkok in a few weeks time will be faced with loud demands to withdraw China’s trading status for ivory, as conservationists have seen a sharp rise in demand from China since it attained this status in 2008, with the Chinese government seemingly doing far too little to crack down on the demand side and subsequently being complicit in the decimation of Africa’s wildlife resources. Tanzania two weeks ago also withdrew an application to CITES to sell over 100 tons of so called legal ivory after facing huge opposition from global conservation groups which threatened to decampaign the country as a tourism destination. The move was welcomed by other East African countries too since at last there is now an opportunity to agree on a common strategy of what to do with the growing ivory stocks now held in TANAPA, KWS and UWA strongrooms.
At the same time did poaching of rhinos in 2012 reach another record level with about 650 of the prized animals killed in South Africa alone, while in recent months a spate of rhino killings also took place in Kenya. Here, as is the case with elephant, is China and Vietnam reportedly the largest market, despite of the now scientifically proven fact that ground rhino horn has exactly zero medicinal properties. Watch this space for regular conservation updates form the Eastern African region.