Tag Archives: Mombasa

Counting the cost of East Africa’s poaching economy

Organised crime gangs generate staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn

AFP

Published: 15:33 March 23, 2014

Nairobi: Organised crime gangs in East Africa are generating staggering profits smuggling ivory and rhino horn with impunity, experts say, threatening both an irreplaceable wildlife heritage and key tourism industries.

Kenyan and Tanzanian ports are the “primary gateway” for ivory smuggled to Asia, where demand is fuelled by increasingly affluent markets, especially in China, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warns.

Last year, seizures of ivory shipments reached “record levels”, according to a recent Interpol report.

“Large-scale ivory shipments — each one representing the slaughter of hundreds of elephants — point to the involvement of organised crime networks operating across multiple countries,” Interpol said.

 Poaching has risen sharply across Africa in recent years.

Organised gangs with insider knowledge and armed with automatic weapons and specialised equipment such as night vision goggles, brazenly use chainsaws to carve out the rhino horn or remove elephant tusks.

Veteran Kenyan conservationist Richard Leakey has now warned that drastic action must be taken, saying that known ringleaders in Kenya are operating with “outrageous impunity”.

The rise in poaching, with animals being slaughtered inside even the most heavily guarded national parks or conservation areas, show that the poachers have little fear of tough new laws designed to stem the wave of killings, he said.

“They could not operate with the impunity we are seeing if you did not have some form of protection from law enforcement agencies,” Leakey said, as he made an appeal for Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to take action.

“It is a problem of a few criminals… the ringleaders are known,” he added, claiming that a core group of around 20 to 30 people were organising the mass poaching but that none had faced justice.

It’s a lucrative business: a kilo of ivory is worth some $850 (Dh3,121) in Asia, with UNODC suggesting ivory smuggled to Asia from Eastern Africa was worth over $31 million in 2011.

But such short-term and finite profits generated by the spate of killings are threatening the far more valuable tourism industry, which in Kenya and Tanzania is the second largest foreign exchange earner after agriculture.

“The African elephant is not currently deemed ‘endangered’ as a species, but its decimation in Eastern Africa could be devastating,” UNODC’s report read.

“In addition to the reduction in genetic diversity, its loss could seriously undermine local tourist revenues, a key source of foreign exchange for many of the countries of the region.”

But the region’s two large container ports — Mombasa in Kenya and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania — are also notorious trafficking hubs, funnelling more elephant tusks to Asia than all of central, southern and west African nations combined.

The two nations made up almost two-thirds of all large shipments of ivory seized across the entire continent from 2009-2011, according to the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS), a tracking database run by wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

Seizures of containers crammed full of tusks — often hidden under foul-smelling fish or dried chili peppers in a bid to confuse sniffer dogs or discourage detailed searches — are regularly found.

Much of the ivory smuggled is destined for China, whose rapidly growing economy has encouraged those enjoying disposable income to splash out on an ivory trinket as a sign of financial success.

“Growing affluence in China, where possession of elephant ivory remains a status symbol, appears to have rendered China the world’s leading destination for illicit ivory,” the UNODC report added.

The smuggling of rhino horns is a bigger problem for Southern Africa, which has far more of the endangered animals. It is often done by air, due to the value of the horn and its smaller size.

But scores of East African rhinos are also being killed despite wildlife rangers often risking their lives to protect them.

 Few convictions

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 Action is being taken including far stiffer sentences for wildlife crime, with Tanzania this month jailing a Chinese ivory smuggler to 20 years in jail, and Kenya introducing tough new laws with comparable penalties.

But many escape justice: a recent study by the Kenyan conservation campaign group Wildlife Direct found that just four percent of those convicted of wildlife crime in the past spent time in jail.

Tanzania last year launched a crackdown on suspected poachers, operating under what was reported to be a shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.

Leakey, 69, a Kenyan national and former head of the government’s Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said with the “right management” stemming the poaching was “not an impossible” task.

He was key in stemming the rampant poaching of the late 1980s, bringing in extreme measures to combat poachers including sending helicopter gunships into national parks, and organising the iconic burning of stockpiled ivory.

“It is not valuable, it is tragic rubbish,” Leakey said, waving an ivory carving seized from a smuggler, the tiny tusk of a baby elephant.

“It is putting at risk our heritage… you can regrow a crop but you cannot regrow a wildlife species that disappears.”

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http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/counting-the-cost-of-east-africa-s-poaching-economy-1.1307699

Uganda: China Joins War Against Illegal Trade in Ivory

By Simon Musasizi, The Observer

16 January 2014

The fight to save Africa’s elephants has reached China, arguably the biggest market for ivory – the single most important reason the giant beast is quickly becoming an endangered species.

China recently destroyed six tons of confiscated ivory, raising hopes for progress in the war against illicit trade in the commodity, most of which comes from Africa. The destruction of the ivory took place in Dongguan city in the southern province of Guangdong, a major hub for the ivory trade.

The statistics tell a much deeper story. In 1930, there were between five and ten million wild African elephants; by 1990, when they were added to the list of critically endangered species, only about 600,000 remained. By 2009, the elephants in Africa stood at 500,000. Most fingers have been pointed at China as part of the reason behind this decline. China’s rapid economic growth continues to build a burgeoning middle class that can afford–and is demanding greater quantities for ivory.

Recent surveys indicate that a large portion of China’s population is unaware of the death toll to create ivory and rhino horn products. Many think ivory is grown on trees in Africa; they have no idea that their current demand for ivory is estimated to claim the lives of as many as 35,000 African elephants annually.

“Excess demand for ivory is the root of the elephant poaching crisis. All other efforts to stop the killing of elephants will be useless if the world doesn’t stop buying ivory. China’s leadership could save Africa’s elephants,” said Dr Iain Douglas-Hamilton, CEO of Save the Elephants, in a press statement issued by Brian Adams, WildAid US Communications Director.

In the statement, WildAid, Save the Elephants, and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF), applauded China’s decision as a way of sending out a message to Chinese of how devastating their luxury has had on the African wildlife. In 2013, the NGOs, along with former NBA superstar Yao Ming and actress Li Bing Bing, called on China to raise awareness about elephant poaching, to reduce the demand for ivory, and protect endangered wildlife.

“The demand for illegally-traded ivory negatively impacts Africa’s tourism industry and reportedly contributes to funds used by terror and insurgent groups,” said WildAid’s Executive Director Peter Knights.

WildAid spearheaded a campaign in 2006 to reduce the demand for shark fin soup in China. Through its partnership with Save the Elephants and AWF, similar public awareness tactics are being used to inform consumers of the impact of ivory demand.

“As the largest ivory market in the world, China has a significant role to play in combating the illegal trade in ivory,” said AWF’s CEO Patrick Bergin.

“We commend the Chinese government for taking this important first step and hope it signals their sincere and growing commitment to help end the elephant slaughter in Africa.”

Uganda has faced its fair share of illegal trade in ivory. Last year, cases of confiscated ivory were on the rise, with the biggest catch coming from Bweyogerere, where Uganda Revenue Authority impounded ivory amounting to 1,903kg (worth Shs 6.4bn) in containers destined for Mombasa. The consignment had 832 pieces of ivory, which means that about 416 elephants were killed.

Later, some Chinese and Guineans were arrested with 116kg of ivory at Entebbe airport. Towards the end of 2013, another consignment of about 1,000kg was impounded at Entebbe airport. Earlier there were other several cases around Fort Portal town, which is situated close to some national parks.

According to Abiaz Rwamwiri, AWF Uganda’s communication officer, AWF has launched dual public awareness campaigns aimed at combating illegal wildlife trafficking from the suppliers and the buyers.

“‘African Voices for Wildlife’ is taking place in Africa; the ‘Say No’ campaign is focused in Asia,” he said.

The campaign, which will be popularised through advertisements on billboards, at airports, on buses, among others, will prominently feature Africans expressing outrage, distress and sorrow about the current poaching epidemic and the impact this could have on them and future generations.

Congolese man in seized ivory saga (Uganda)

By Job Bwire, New Vision
Jan 11, 2014

KAMPALA – The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has threatened to have a Congolese businessman arrested in connection to ivory it believes was smuggled into the country.

The man went to court claiming ownership of the recently impounded 832 pieces of ivory from Bweyogere, Kampala.

Speaking with New Vision on Friday at Nakawa High Court after the hearing of the case hit a snag, the URA legal representative, Bernard Olok, said they intend to apply for an international warrant of arrest for Emille Kayumba Ogane.

The Congolese national, who failed to appear in court despite a court order, is the director of Kayumba Company Ltd.

URA impounded the said ivory on October 17 last year from Ken Freight Forwarders.

Following the confiscation of the material, Kayumba sued URA and sought a court order to compel the tax body to release the ivory.

In the application filed before Nakawa High Court judge, Wilson Musalu, the businessman said he exported the ivory from DR Congo’s Goma through Bunagana border post into Uganda lawfully.

Kayumba’s court application indicates that his agent secured transit transport from Ken Freight Forwarders and a container but that the cargo was seized by URA on claims that it was prohibited and smuggled.

His lawyers now claim that because of the actions of the local tax body, the businessman has suffered loss of delivery time of the cargo to its destination – China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

They insist that the cargo was wrongfully seized while in transit to Mombasa, claiming the action contravenes the East African Customs Management law.

However, when the case came up for hearing on December 20 last year, Judge Musalu declined to hear the case and instead ordered that the Congolese businessman should appear in court January 10 (Friday).

In appearing in court, the judge had said, Kayumba would have to explain how and where he got the contentious ivory from, part of which Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) fears could have come from some of its reserves in Uganda.

But the Friday hearing flopped following the absence of trial Judge Musalu, who was said to be in Entebbe presiding over a criminal session.

Kayumba, who is the complainant in the matter, also did not appear in court.

According to Judge Musalu’s court clerk, the matter will be fixed for hearing on a yet-to-be decided date.