Smuggled Zimbabwean ivory impounded in Kenya

Sniffer dogs found the nearly 300kg of ivory, one of Africa’s biggest ivory hauls, at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta Airport in crates coming from Mozambique on a Kenya Airways flight, the director of the Kenya Wildlife Service said on Tuesday.

“The rhino horns are freshly cut and one of them has a bullet wound,” Julius Kipng’etich said. “It’s a sad moment. Remember all wildlife, wherever it is, is a world heritage. So if we lose any, it’s a loss to all of us as a human race.”

Kipng’etich suspects the animals were poached from not only Zimbabwe, but other southern African countries such as Tanzania, SA. However, Mozambique hardly has any elephants or  rhinos.

According to the WWF conservation group, the whole continent has about 18000 rhinos left, while sub- Saharan Africa has 690000 elephants at most — where once there were millions.

Ivory demand in Asia was stimulating poaching by international criminal rings, wildlife experts said.

“In the last year we have witnessed an upsurge in poaching for trophies, especially elephants and rhinos,” Kipng’etich said.

“In the last year alone, Zimbabwe lost 100 rhinos and SA 162. This to me is the tip of the iceberg.”

Kipng’etich said the illegal shipment was bound for Laos, but that China was more likely to be the final destination. “From our own experience of movement of wildlife trophies, definitely this was going to China.”

Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine . Elsewhere, ivory is in demand for carving into dagger handles and other ornaments.

Kipng’etich said a kilogram of rhino horn was worth about 5000 on the black market, while a kilogram of ivory sold for 3000, meaning the haul seized in Kenya, comprising 280kg of elephant ivory and 18kg of rhino horn, was worth almost $1m . Reuters/Zimeye