By Dennis Lubanga
Police officers in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County have seized a consignment of ivory weighing 152 kilogrammes with an estimated market value of Sh15 million.
The vehicle transporting the consignment which is believed to have been en route to Kampala in Uganda from Nairobi was intercepted by police at around 5pm on Wednesday at Maili Nne market in the outskirts of Eldoret town.
A Kenyan national and a Ugandan were the two suspects who were arrested by police.
They were travelling in the vehicle which had a Ugandan registration number.
The suspects found in possession of the 31 trophies of ivory were identified as Julius Ali Wandetoh (Kenyan) and John Bagonza (Ugandan).
Confirming the incident, Eldoret West Sub-County Commissioner Christopher Wanjau said that the suspects were arrested following a tip off from vigilant members of the public.
He revealed that, police officers set up a road block at Maili Nne where the vehicle was stopped and after conducting a thorough search in the vehicle found the trophies tucked beneath the chairs of the Toyota Noah van.
According to Wanjau, the suspects are likely to have considered using road transport due to the current tight security at Kenyan airports.
Wanjau described the seizure as a major breakthrough in the fight against poaching in the country stating that killing wild animals for their ivory was hurting the country’s tourism sector.
“Today we have managed to arrest two suspects whom we were alerted about by cautious members of the public that they had spotted a suspicious vehicle which they believed was up to some mischief.
We alerted our officers and manned the Eldoret-Malaba highway at Maili Nne where we intercepted the vehicle and recovered the contraband ivory,” Wanjau said.
Eldoret West OCPD Ndung’u Wa Ikonya said the suspects will appear in court soon where they will be charged with contravening the Wildlife Act after being found in possession of wildlife ivory.
According to the Act, a suspect is likely to be convicted to a life sentence or a fine of Sh20 million.
Uasin Gishu County Deputy Governor Daniel Chemno thanked security officers who seized the consignment as well as members of the public who alerted the officers for doing an exemplary job.
At the same time he called for enhancement penalties for poachers.
Mr Chemno said that the current penalties were very lenient making the culprits to continue with the vice.
The county boss also said that Uasin Gishu will not tolerate poaching and emphasised that elephants are the only animals mandated by nature to carry ivory and not human beings.
He also said that the ivory trophies could have come from the Tsavo National Park.
“Uasin Gishu County is not a conduit for ivory trade.
As a county government, we are not going to allow this and anyone arrested will face the full wrath of the law, Mr Chemo said.
“Since the national government is mandated with the duty of handling wildlife matters, I call upon it to put in place tough penalties for apprehended poachers so that they can act as an example to others,” Chemno.