IFAW: Ivory seized in Nairobi

Hot on the heels of the enactment of Kenya’s Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill 2013, two Chinese nationals have, in a span of two days in two separate incidents, been arrested in possession of ivory.

Under the new law the two men, if found guilty, will face massive fines and stiff jail sentences.

“The previous penalty for possession of ivory, a maximum of 30,000 shillings (around £210), was not a deterrent at all vis-à-vis the price of ivory. The new act has raised the penalty for offences relating to endangered species,” said Steve Njumbi, Head of Programmes IFAW East Africa (International Fund for Animal Welfare).

In the new Bill those convicted of offences relating to endangered and threatened species are liable to fines of not less than 10 million Kenyan shillings (around £71,000) or to imprisonment of not less than 15 years or both. In the first incident, a 41-year-old suspect was arrested at an apartment in the affluent Riverside estate in Nairobi in possession of ivory, leopard skin and multiple passports. Authorities stated that he is believed to be behind human and ivory smuggling cases.

The second incident involved a 40-year-old man who was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport after being found with 3.4 kilogrammes of ivory. He was in transit from Mozambique to Guangzhou, China. The ivory was found in his luggage disguised as cups.

According to an IFAW report Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, ivory smuggling and wildlife trade have been linked to other forms of organised crime including terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking.

“The impressive stiffer penalties will surely be a deterrent to the lower end poachers which is an effective way of disrupting the wildlife crime chain,” said Njumbi. “However there will still be a need to enhance intelligence gathering and investigations to cut the other links of wildlife trafficking.”

The arrests come two weeks after China crushed six tons of ivory to demonstrate commitment to end ivory trade. IFAW applauds governments that have recently destroyed their seized ivory. It is a symbolic gesture that highlights the plight of tens of thousands of elephants and takes ivory out of circulation and renders it worthless.

Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased from the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephants to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania and the Caribbean. The organisation recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with INTERPOL, the first ever signed by INTERPOL’s Environmental Crime Programme with an NGO. IFAW and INTERPOL have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including INTERPOL’s largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012.


For more information, photographs or interviews please contact Amanda Gent at IFAW on +44 (0)20 7587 6725, mobile +44 (0)7860 755876, email agent@ifaw.org or Jacqueline Nyagah, IFAW, East Africa on  +254 20 3870540; mobile: +254 722 607 640; email jnyagah@ifaw.org