Seventeen percent of illegal ivory seized worldwide in the past seven years was confiscated at Kenya’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
According to a report by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) released during its 72nd Annual General Meeting in Dublin, 51 of 289 seizures of ivory were netted at the Nairobi airport, the busiest airport in the East Africa region and a key transport hub in Africa and internationally.
The findings are not indicative of runaway wildlife trafficking in Kenya or indeed that the slaughter of elephants continues unabatedly but rather suggest that a large portion of illegally trafficked wildlife products are routed through Kenya’s main airport. In April, Kenya destroyed 105 tonnes of ivory; the single largest quantity to be destroyed in the world, in efforts to send a message that ivory is of no value.
“Given the prevailing levels of wildlife crime in the world, there is a need to enhance intelligence gathering and investigations to sever the links of wildlife trafficking,” said James Isiche, Regional Director IFAW East Africa. “Efforts also need to be increased to improve the capacity for collaboration amongst law enforcement agencies to nab wildlife traffickers. IFAW is working with countries in Africa and Asia which are source, transit and consumer countries of wildlife products towards achieving this outcome through capacity building activities for wildlife law enforcement officers,” he added.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as “white gold”. Limited availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.
Wildlife trafficking is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities – valued at billions of US dollars annually. It ranks in the top most lucrative transnational organized crimes, behind drug trafficking, money laundering and counterfeiting. According to an IFAW report Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, ivory smuggling and the wildlife trade has been linked to other forms of organized crime such as terrorism, illegal arms and drug trafficking.