BY PASCAL KWESIGA AND GERALD TENYWA
The Kenyan Government and Wildlife conservationists are still investigating circumstances under which a consignment of about one and a half tones of ivory reportedly entered the country through Uganda.
Officials at the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Wednesday seized the consignment of ivory reportedly hacked out of poached elephants-the latest in a series of seizures by the Kenyan, according to Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto.
The seizure of the ivory stashed in 69 bundles of several pieces and disguised as sundried fish came after 35 pieces of ivory concealed in metallic suitcases were impounded by Uganda Revenue Authority customs officials as they were being cleared at Entebbe Airport for transportation to Malaysia in July 2012.
They were handed over to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). Another consignment of almost 84 kilograms of ivory was also impounded at Entebbe Airport in November as smugglers tried to get them cleared for transportation out of the country.
The seizure of the 69 bundles of pieces of ivory also came two days after US President Barack Obama signed an executive order launching a $10 million (7.7 million euro) bid to cut wildlife trafficking in Africa, with $3 million in assistance earmarked for Kenya.
The smugglers used the smelly dried fish to hide 770 pieces of ivory weighing 1,478 kilograms
Export documents from the seizure showed that the consignment had entered Kenya from Uganda on June 12, 2013, and was destined for Malaysia. Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Uganda ratified the convention.
There was no comment from the Ugandan authorities on the consignment by yesterday as efforts to get a comment from UWA proved futile.
The illegal ivory trade, estimated to be worth between $7 billion and $10 billion a year, is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used in traditional medicine and to make ornaments.
Uganda and her sister states in the East African region account for 68% of the illegal ivory trade in the world, according to a new report released at the meeting organised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered species (CITES) at Bangkok, Thailand.
According to the reports, the African elephant population is estimated at 650,000 elephants (Uganda’s population is about 5000). According to UWA, Uganda lost 25 elephants in 2011.