By Dominic Wabala, The Star
Poachers earned US$ 30 million(Sh2.6 billion) from 154 tonnes of ivory in 2011. A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report on organised crime said between 5,600 and 15,400 elephants are poached in Eastern Africa annually.
A total of 15,400 elephants were killed in East Africa alone. The report titled ‘Transnational Organised Crime in East Africa: A Threat Assessment,’ was released yesterday. It further indicated that most ivory shipments from Africa to Asia pass through Dar es Salaam and Mombasa ports.
Estimates put the current elephant population in East Africa at 140,000 which is about one third of the continents population. Most of these are in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
That represents between 4 per cent and 11 per cent of the elephant population killed in East Africa and sold at about USD850 (Sh73,950) per kilogramme.
“It is estimated that between 5,600 and 15,400 elephants are poached in Eastern Africa annually producing between 56 and 154 metric tonnes of illicit ivory of which two thirds (37 tons) is destined for Asia worth around USD31 million (Sh2.6 billion) in 2011,” the report said.
The report says that the current poaching rates exceed the regions natural population growth and could quickly diminish the elephant population that had rebounded and increased after the 1970 to 1989 decrease in number.
“East Africa is important as a source of illicit ivory, but it may even be more important as a transit area. In fact majority of recent seizures of illicit ivory made anywhere in the world were exported from either Kenya of Tanzania through Mombasa or Dar es Salaam.The share of large seizures that were trafficked through these two countries appears to be growing,” the report says.
The UNODC report says that ivory is used in Japan for the manufacture of the traditional stamp (hanko), while in China it’s ornaments made out of ivory are a status symbol.
The report urges the government to to prioritize poaching of elephants as a serious offence and initiate sharing of information by concerned countries. It calls for special legislation to deter the poaching and trading in illicit ivory.