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October 19 - 25, 2012

 

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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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Conservation group calls for strict
penalties for elephant poachers

Hong Kong customs officers seized almost four tonnes
of ivory worth about U.S. $3.4 million dollars, hidden in
shipments ALLEGEDLY DISPATCHED from Kenya and Tanzania

SPECIAL REPORT BY XINHUA CORRESPONDENT Peter Mutai
 

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- An international conservation group on Monday called on Kenyan authorities to protect elephants from poachers and seal off exit routes to avert illegal trade in ivory.

In a statement issued in Nairobi, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) expressed concern over reports that 3.8 tonnes of illegal ivory originated from Kenya was seized in Hong Kong over the weekend.

"The Government of Kenya owes its citizenry and the global community an explanation for this implication.

"Kenyans deserve to know what action has been or is being taken against these criminals who seem to be having a field day," James Isiche, regional director for IFAW Eastern Africa, said in a statement issued in Nairobi.

Hong Kong customs officers seized almost four tonnes of ivory worth about 3.4 million U.S. dollars, hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania, which however, has denied the reports.

Some 1,209 pieces of raw ivory tusk and a small number of ivory ornaments were discovered in two containers marked "plastic scrap" and "roscoco beans", shipped to Hong Kong earlier this week, a customs official said.

The smuggled ivory, weighing 3.81 tonnes, the largest ever seizure by Hong Kong authorities, was found hidden among bags of plastic scraps and beans by customs officers acting on a tip-off from counterparts in mainland China.

"The total seizure is worth about 3.4 million," the Hong Kong customs department said, adding that it will step up efforts with mainland Chinese authorities to combat transnational smuggling activities.

The seizure came barely three months since Vietnam officials arrested two Vietnamese passengers who had 137 kg of ivory.

The smugglers had transported the consignment from Angola through Kenya before heading to Asia.

"We also need to know if the present high poaching incidences in the country are feeding into these criminal syndicates, who their local links are, and what action has been taken to arrest the situation both for elephants in the wild and the criminals involved in the vice," Isiche said.

"If our sea ports and airports are secure conduits for illicit ivory, then it can also be concluded that the same applies for other contraband which could be detrimental to our very own security," he added.

The seizure of illegal ivory from Kenya continues despite efforts by the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), which is introducing the Canine Unit with sniffer dogs on a 24-hour basis at the Jomo Kenyatta in Nairobi and Moi International Airport in Mombasa to detect movements of illegal ivory.

The unit has since 2009 netted more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory.

This, according to the wildlife agency, has effectively led to reduced smuggling of illegal trophies. Plans are at an advanced stage by KWS to also introduce sniffer dogs at the Eldoret International Airport as well as other exit and entry points.

Stiffer penalties related to wildlife crime have been incorporated under the proposed wildlife law to deter poaching- related cases and incidents in Kenya.

"At this rate, I dread that in a month or less, there will be another seizure implicating Kenya and Tanzania, the two major conduits or sources or both of large consignments of illegal ivory in the last two years," Isiche said.,

Last December, another consignment with 727 ivory pieces and weighing over 2,500 kg was intercepted at the same port in Mombasa.

According to Isiche, 2011 proved to be one of the most disastrous in terms of elephant ivory confiscations.

Last month, IFAW uncovered more than 300 elephants slaughtered in eight weeks in Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjida National Park by poachers.
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Mozambican governor accuses
foreign elephant and rhino poachers

MAPUTO (Xinhua) -- The governor of the northernmost Mozambican province of Niassa, David Malizane, on Thursday accused foreign nationals of poaching in the Niassa National Park.

Malizane said that the criminals are killing elephants and rhinos to remove tusks and horns, leaving the animals rotting.

"I urge the population in the area to be very vigilant against the poachers," he said, adding that the criminals work with local people, who know the park "very well".

He accused Malawians and Tanzanians of being involved in the poaching.

The governor also announced that the provincial government is to step up security along the borders with Tanzania and Malawi to curb poaching.

"We are going to take security measures along the borders to prevent the poachers from entering our park".

Poaching problem is also faced in the northwestern province of Tete, where six people including three Zimbabweans and three Mozambicans were arrested two weeks ago in Magoe district.

The Zimbabweans are accused of using anti tank mines to kill elephants in Magoe. In the central province of Manica, poachers use poison to kill the mammals and remove tusks for business.

In Manica, the government accuses Zimbabweans and Zambians of indiscriminate killing of elephants and rhinos.

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