By Wolfgang H. Thome
The seizure last weekend at the port of Mombasa of a container with nearly 2 tons of ivory concealed among the cargo of seeds, put fresh spotlight on Uganda. Only a few weeks ago were two containers seized at a cargo yard, likely as a result of a tip off, where a big consignment of blood ivory was subsequently confiscated by customs, security and wildlife officers. Those containers had originated from Uganda, as did the container which got nabbed last Friday. Official sources in both Kenya and Uganda are tightlipped as to where the ivory could have come from, as poaching numbers in Uganda are relatively low compared to those in Tanzania, Kenya itself or, as is suspected, in either Eastern Congo’s Garamba National Park or the parks in South Sudan.
“It is premature to point fingers at this stage. What is confirmed is that the container came from Uganda. What we do not know is where the ivory came from. Forensic tests have been ordered but those will take time. We don’t even have the results yet of the ivory shipment we got a few weeks ago. We know that Uganda’s poaching figures are very low, so there is suspicion the ivory could have come from neighboring countries and you can look at those countries which could be fingered. We know it is most unlikely Rwanda because there they enforce anti-poaching with overwhelming power. But there are other candidates, in particular where there is civil unrest and internal strife. Those are breeding grounds for poaching because law enforcement is lax or not bothered with such crimes when they have to deal with human conflict,” said a Mombasa based source close to the action, and credible does his explanation sound.
Another source contacted in Nairobi made reference to the vigilance of enforcement personnel in Mombasa and paid tribute to the officers involved when he wrote: “The number of containers found with ivory or other illegal wildlife products in them has increased a lot since about two years ago. That means that the deployment of sniffer dogs has worked. The added technology now available is also helping to scan containers and the idea is to eventually scan every single container before it goes on a ship. Kenya has been blamed for being not fully committed to fight poaching and the trade but Kenya in fact is committed. There is no way we can allow elephants to be butchered like in other countries. The numbers here run into the low hundreds and that is not acceptable, but not like in other places where they talk of thousands. You must also look at the track record of what is being seized in Nairobi at JKIA [Jomo Kenyatta International Airport\ and how our courts are now handling those cases. In the past the culprits got away with a small fine and now they go to prison for several years and have to pay a huge fine on top. So I think Kenya should be commended and not blamed for catching ivory shipments especially when it is clear they are from third countries.” More....