News from Nairobi tell the story of continued vigilance against the smuggling of ivory through Kenya’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International, as two more individuals from South Sudan and the United States were nabbed over the weekend.
Both were found in possession of ivory bangles and other items, and while not related or travelling together, were independently caught during the checks instituted by local security, working hand in hand with KWS and other organs to prevent the smuggling of blood ivory.
Notably was the American citizen, caught with several bangles, rings and pendants, produced in court and let go after paying a fine of just 30.000 Kenya Shillings, causing once again consternation among the conservation fraternity over the lenient sentence. The South Sudanese man remains, according to information, in custody though he was found in possession of ‘only’ 5 bangles, which according to one source in Nairobi could have been in his possession or the possession of his family for long. This too raised concerns over the inequitable treatment of the two before court.
‘It is important for visitors to Kenya to understand, even for those only transiting in Nairobi to their final destination, that under our law it is a criminal offence to carry any ivory products without a proper licence or permit. From the old days many in Kenya still have elephant hair bracelets or jewelry made of ivory, and it is strongly recommended they obtain a proper license for such property. Otherwise, one might just be arrested and such family heirlooms be confiscated. For the South Sudanese man, the trial might establish the facts but for the American it is clear he purchased the stuff somewhere and his sentence should have been custodial and the fine a lot heavier. Only then can we expect justice to be done, and seen to be done, but such laughable fines are not a deterrent’ commented a source close to KWS, when asked to shed light on the circumstances of both cases. ‘Travelers should be told by their travel agents, and the airlines, that it is illegal to carry ivory products and that they will be prosecuted when found with it, in the absence of a valid permit. Please help us to spread that information widely’.
KWS, and other security, employ sniffer dogs to detect blood ivory concealed in baggage, similar to checks carried out at the port of Mombasa, through which major quantities of blood ivory have in the past been exported.
Kenya Airways, the national airline, too has strict policies in place now to prevent blood ivory to be shipped with them as air cargo but in particular passengers, connecting often from other African countries via Nairobi, are regularly found flouting the rules and attempting to smuggle ivory back home.
Visitors to Kenya, and the other East African countries, including Ethiopia, are therefore once again cautioned to refrain from carrying either ‘legacy ivory’ in form of jewelry such as pendants or bangles – even if it has been in the family for a very long time – or to illegally purchase and then attempt to smuggle ivory, processed or raw, as the chances are very high to be caught and prosecuted, and subsequently banned from any future return as a convict in the respective countries.