By Mike Fossum
Kenyan customs officers in Mombasa have seized almost four tons of elephant ivory in two separate shipments Wednesday, amid a spike in poaching of the animals. The illicit ivory trade on the black market has been discovered to help fund terrorism.
Kenya Revenue Authority official Fatma Yusuf said that one cache of ivory weighing roughly 4,200 pounds was found Friday, under a bag of sesame seeds in the port city of Mombasa, on the Indian Ocean. On Tuesday, another 4,400 pounds was found disguised in a similar manner. Both stockpiles were scheduled to be shipped to Turkey.
Ivory poaching has been on the rise – Zimbabwean poachers recently poisoned 87 elephants with cyanide in Hwange national park, which holds one of the world’s largest herds. Zimbabwean environment minister Saviour Kasukuwere said that park rangers and police have recovered 19 tusks, cyanide and wire snares, while searching villages close to the park.
The Kenyan seizures are indicative of the poaching of several, if not hundreds, of elephants. Also found in the Mombasa raid was 1,000 pounds of pangolin scales. Pangolins are anteaters and the only mammal known to be covered in armor made of keratin. The scales are used in Chinese traditional medicine, similar to the way rhinoceros horns are used, and as fashion accessories in Asia.
Kenya Wildlife Service director Arthur Tudor said searches at Mombasa were being increased in a bid to stop smugglers. “We want to ensure that our port is not used as a transit point of ivory,” he said, adding, “We have to step up the war on poachers to completely wipe out the ivory trade – it is threatening elephant populations in the country and entire region.”
Ivory trade is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Black market ivory generates up to $10 billion a year, and is mostly fostered by clients in Asia and the Middle East. It’s also been suggested that poaching has helped to fund the terrorist attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. Video.