6 May 2010

Kenya: KWS Probes Origin of Ivory Seized in Vietnam

Nairobi — Efforts are being made to establish whether the two tonnes of elephant ivory tusks seized in Vietnam originated from Kenya.

The haul was destined for China, according to state-linked media reports. Customs officials claimed that the ivory was illegally imported from Kenya.

"We don't have independent factual information about the origin of the ivory beyond news reports. We are still making efforts to verify.

"Therefore, we can't as yet confirm that the ivory originated from Kenya," Kenya Wildlife Service corporate affairs manager Paul Udoto said on Thursday.

The tusks were hidden in 400 plastic sacks and covered with dry seaweed, said the VNExpress online news site, citing the customs department.

It said the tusks were found in two containers at the northern Haiphong Port on Tuesday. Customs officials refused to comment on the case when reached by AFP.

There is a booming black market in African ivory linked to Asian crime syndicates, experts and delegates said in March at a UN wildlife trade meeting.

Ivory trade has been banned since 1989, with the exception of a few one-time sales, but there has been a dramatic surge in illegal trafficking since 2005.

Officials in Vietnam seized up to five tonnes of elephant tusks smuggled from Tanzania in March last year, state media said at the time.Last July, six businessmen were charged with smuggling 11 tonnes of ivory in Tanzania.

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