By Janet Otieno
Alarmed by the surging demand from Asian markets for rhino and elephant horns and tusks, most African countries are working out a formula to curb the trade that drives poaching.
Countries like Kenya have placed sniffer dogs in most ports of entry, and game rangers have also been deployed into ‘danger zones’.
But even as they do this, poachers are devising new methods to beat the conservationists at their own game.
The trade does not endanger rhinos and elephants alone.
Malagasy tortoises have also enjoyed a ‘safe flight’ before landing into cooking pots in some Asian restaurants and slaughter houses where their body parts are believed to have medicinal qualities.
In 2010, about 415 endangered Madagascar tortoises that had been trafficked to Malaysia were flown back to the country’s capital Antananarivo.
They are now safe in the Mangily breeding centre in the country. Customs authorities at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia seized the ‘tortoise cargo’ from an Air Mauritius flight.
Reports have it that in 1950, the African elephant population numbered five million; by the 1989 their numbers had steadily dipped due to poaching, leaving fewer than 450,000 in the continent.
Elephants and rhinos are now being pushed to extinction.
Reacting to this alarming trend, conservationist bodies like Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) placed the African Elephant at Appendix 1, as a most endangered species in 1989, and as a result in 1990 slapped a global ban on the international trade in ivory.
However, even with the ban, illegal trade in ivory has soared and to prove that it may get worse, on May 15 the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confirmed the seizure of three containers with ivory, which was being shipped from the Mombasa port to Sri Lanka. More....