Kenya’s wildlife authorities said Tuesday they have arrested a Vietnamese national after he was found in possession of 488 pieces ivory bangles weighing 33.6kg.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Corporate Affairs Manager Paul Udoto said the 39-year-old Nguyen Viet Truong Phong was nabbed at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya’s capital Nairobi while trying to board a Kenya Airways flight to Bangkok on Sunday night.
“The contraband had been painted brown and yellow and then hidden in a suitcase and disguised as soap stone,” Udoto said in a statement released in Nairobi on Tuesday.
Udoto said a joint security team detected and seized Phong who followed a mission that has become a new trend of disguising ivory contraband and smuggling through the country ports.
Udoto said the suspect appeared before a Nairobi court on Monday. KWS officials and other law enforcement agencies have heightened security surveillance for illicit consignments of wildlife products and particularly ivory at all Kenya’s ports.
The arrest comes after the government said it would deploy 1,000 more rangers to beef up wildlife security efforts to curb rising incidents of poaching across the East African nation.
Government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said last Saturday that the deployment of more rangers by the KWS will scale up efforts to salvage the remaining elephants in Kenya, where 74 elephants have already been killed in the first three months of 2013.
“KWS is modernizing its force with the support of the government. We intend to fight poachers at all levels to save our elephants,” he said.
The wildlife population in Kenya dwindled in the latest anti-poaching measures, as the most recent statistics from the KWS indicate the number of elephants, for instance, has reduced from 160,000 in 1970’s to below 30,000.
Kenya said it cannot allow further poaching of wildlife because the animal numbers have been reducing at an alarming rate.
Global Post, April 10, 2013