The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Untouchable Lords of Poaching in Samburu

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He suspects the killers collude with KWS officers who guide them in their movements.

KWS director William Kiprono is however warning his officers against colluding with criminals. "We are carrying out our investigations and should any officer be found colluding with poachers, he will be treated as a criminal," he said. Kiprono was speaking to the Star in his office.

The elephants are trailed for several hours and the ones with huge tusks are targeted.

There was a case in which one of the oldest male elephants in Samburu called 'Changila' was killed and the carcass covered with leaves and twigs to conceal it from vultures and officers who are on aerial patrol.

Once the elephant is killed, the poachers chop off the tusks using axes and chisels. The ivory is taken to the collection point near the road where it is picked up by boda bodas after being cut into small pieces and put in travelling bags.

"They use travelling bags. They cut them into pieces and put some clothes inside so that nobody can detect them," said the source.

The two lords of poaching in Archers Post habe been arrested before but released in unclear circumstances.

Their network is well organised. Those who kill the elephants, those who remove the tusks and those who ferry them to Archers Post are different teams.

One of the poaching barons, who is known as Musa, was arrested in June 2011 in Lolkumiani area with axes and two motorcycles on a mission to ferry tusks. He is believed to be operating a network of poachers as he was spotted in Suralipi in his car the same day. He was arrested along with the boda boda operators but were later released.

Another trader suspected to be a ring leader is called Muthomi. He owns a wholesale shop at Archers Post. "We have heard people saying he is a smuggler but we have not managed to arrest him with any trophies," said Archers Post OCS George Naibei. "We urge members of the public to volunteer any information when they spot them with ivory."

"The police know their vehicles and they often pass checkpoints without inspection," said a KWS ranger based in Archers Post. "As rangers, our major work is inside the parks and we are not allowed to erect barriers or stop vehicles along the highway. That is the work of the police."

A barrier that used to be near the Archers Police post was removed and only operates at night.

A middl aged man, only known as Ngitoi, is a well known broker in the town. Last year, officers from KWS and Kenya Police called him through his cell phone number pretending to be buyers of ivory.

The man presented himself with four fresh tusks in an agreed place where he was arrested. He was later set free and has been intimidating security officers in the town that they can't take him anywhere.

The traders are saidd to be using their trucks which often collect goods in Isiolo and Nairobi to ferry the trophies. The ivory is cut in small pieces, is put in travelling bags and fuel tanks. Some are concealed in vehicle bonnets.

When the ivory reaches Isiolo, it is handed over to big dealers who then ferry it to Nairobi.

Robert Njiru, popularly known as 'Rasta', is a 36-year-old businessman who runs a timber yard in Isiolo town.

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