Monday, Dec 22nd 2014

Record hauls of elephant tusks seized in Africa

Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 00:00 -- BY RAPHAEL MWADIME
JUMBO LOOT: The 230 elephant tusks seized from a yard in Tudor, Mombasa, on May 5.Photo/Elkana Jacob
JUMBO LOOT: The 230 elephant tusks seized from a yard in Tudor, Mombasa, on May 5.Photo/Elkana Jacob

Large-scale ivory hauls in Africa have exceeded those in Asia for the first time, a report released last week says.

 The report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora says the increase in seizures in Africa could be a result of stepped-up law enforcement efforts on the continent.

 Last week, police in Mombasa arrested two suspects for having 314 elephant tusks weighing 2,152kg. Eighty per cent of the seizures occurred in three countries: Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

“These large seizures in Africa mean less ivory is leaving our shores and ending up in storefronts or coffee tables in Asia,” says Dr Philip Muruthi, African Wildlife Foundation’s senior director of conservation science.

 The number of elephants poached in Africa has decreased, according to the report released on June 13 by CITES.

 The report estimates that 20,000 elephants were poached in 2013, compared to the 25,000 killed in 2011 and 22,000 killed in 2012, and suggests that elephant poaching may be levelling off—to a degree.

 “This is good news that the figures are declining, but the rate of poaching is still far too high and unsustainable,” says Muruthi.

 Muruthi moaned the death of Satao, Kenyas largest bull elephant that was reported to have been poached using a poisoned arrow last weekend in Tsavo East.

 “The loss of one of Kenya’s largest and most famous bull elephants to poachers this weekend is a stark reminder of this, and we must continue strengthening our efforts on the ground to ensure the figures continue their downward movement,” he said.

AWF has been working to strengthen law enforcement across sub-Saharan Africa to counteract the surge in poaching and wildlife trafficking.

 “It is up to us as Africans—through increased law enforcement and tougher laws—to make this continent inhospitable for poachers and traffickers, which we are beginning to see happen in some countries,” notes Muruthi.

 While the figures collected by CITES’ Monitoring Illegal Killing in Elephants (MIKE) and Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) programs reveal an increase in the number of elephants poached in countries such as the Central African Republic, other countries, such as Chad, show a decline in elephant poaching.

Poverty, weak governance, and demand for ivory in Asia are cited as three main factors driving the elephant poaching in Africa.