On April 25th two men were pursued by wildlife rangers from the Amboseli-Tsavo Game Scouts Association in Tanzania. The men escaped across the border to southern Kenya where they were caught by police, who had been tipped off by the wildlife scouts. The two men’s SUV contained 1,550 lbs (703 kilograms) of elephant tusks, representing a total of up to forty individuals according to the Kenyan Wildlife Service.
This is considered the largest seizure in the region since the ivory smuggling boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The ivory is estimated at a value of $750,000 (or 60 million Kenyan shillings).
An elephant in Tanzania. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
Rangers in Amboseli worry that some of the tusks may come from elephants that roam their park. Each elephant in Amboseli is known by researchers and some remain unaccounted for. Recent reports in Africa have emphasized a sudden up-tick in elephant poaching from Tanzania to the Congo. Some have blamed this rise in poaching on decision to sell-off old ivory in a series of four auctions.
Researchers with WildlifeDirect say that the elephants may have been poisoned with Furadan, a particularly strong pesticide. The use of the pesticide has come under scrutiny lately as poachers have used the drug to kill lions and birds in Eastern Africa. FMC Corporation has recently announced the pesticide will be taken off the market in Kenya.
The smugglers pleaded guilty and face up to a year in jail. They will be sentenced on May 4th.
(02/19/2009) Indochina’s remaining elephants are at risk from surging ivory prices in Vietnam, according to a new report from the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.
(11/07/2008) South Africa sold 47 metric tons of elephant ivory to Chinese and Japanese buyers for $6.7 million in what was the final of four auctions sanctioned by CITES, an international agreement on the wildlife trade.
(10/30/2008) The first internally-sanctioned auction of elephant ivory since 1999 produced lower-than-expected prices, but plenty of controversy, reports Reuters.