By Fredrick Nzwili
Days after Kenyan leader Uhuru Kenyatta signed $5 billion in projects with China that included a nod to wildlife preservation, Kenyan courts sentenced a Chinese woman to more than two years in jail for her attempt to smuggle ivory from the East African nation.
The sentence on Chen Beimei is the first of its kind in Kenya, where authorities so far have levied only small fines for ivory smugglers – even while doling out tougher penalties on local poachers who directly kill animals.
Ms. Chen was arrested Aug. 14 while trying to smuggle pieces of ivory weighing more than 15 pounds in bags that she declared to be macadamia nuts. She was apprehended while boarding a Kenyan Airways Flight to Hong Kong from Nairobi, and late last week pleaded guilty to the charges.
Her jail sentence comes as gangs are poaching elephants and rhinos to feed a demand for ivory in the Asian market. China and Thailand are thought to be the biggest consumers, with the items being used for ornaments and medicine.
Kenya’s President Kenyatta was in Beijing last week to sign a major deal that will see China build a railroad through Kenya from the Indian Ocean to Uganda.
But China also agreed, according to Mr. Kenyatta, to support efforts to stop poaching wildlife and endangered species, even though Beijing has had difficulty curbing the exploitation of endangered species at home.
The ivory issue has become more sensitive as elephant populations decline and a law is being debated in Kenya's parliament to impose prison terms up to 15 years or fines over $100,000 on those convicted of threatening endangered species. More....