By Rashid Razaq
A convicted poacher has boasted of killing more than 70 elephants in a shocking insight into the £12 billion-a-year ivory trade, which is funding terrorism and threatening the survival of the species.
John Sumokwo, 33, who ran a poaching gang for more than a decade, was released from prison two months ago after serving just over a year.
The Kenyan showed little remorse as he mimicked the piercing screams the elephants would make when he speared one through the heart.
He told the Mirror: “When I killed the elephants, the others would shout. They were extremely distressed. They would run around looking for ways of defending the one I had attacked. I remember one young calf saw me kill her mum.
“She ran off for protection from other animals. My attacks were so frequent that the elephants could not mate and have calves. There were not enough male bull elephants left.
“To me, this was just business — I didn’t think about it any other way. The buyer gave me money and then sold it off to the big syndicates in Mombasa.”
The Standard is backing an appeal by our sister papers The Independent and i on behalf of charity Space for Giants.
In an interview with this paper, Foreign Secretary William Hague this week said the illegal ivory trade was increasingly linked to terrorism and armed conflict in Africa. Somali militant group al-Shabab, which claimed responsibility for the Westgate shopping centre attack in Kenya last year, in which 62 people died, is believed to be profiting from the trade.
Mr Hague is to co-chair a major conference in London next week where world leaders will discuss how to end poaching. Prince William is expected to speak at the conference.
Poachers such as Sumokwo — who slaughtered one in seven of the elephants in the Lake Kamnarok Game Reserve — will now face life sentences for killing endangered animals, as part of a crackdown which came into force a month ago. British troops from the Parachute Regiment have also begun training Kenyan wildlife rangers to fight back against poaching gangs.
Sumokwo said he and his gang were paid £80 a kilo for the ivory — about £9,600 for an average bull elephant. In China tusks can fetch more than £2,000 a kilo.
The UK Border Force seized 80.7kg of ivory at British airports last year last year, compared with 3.3kg in 2010.
Kenya’s elephant population has plunged from 167,000 30 years ago to just 30,000. In Africa, there are now just over half a million, compared with three to five million in the Thirties.