Kenyan court on Thursday (August 22nd) sentenced a Chinese ivory smuggler to two and a half years in prison, a ruling that was hailed as a powerful warning to poachers and smugglers, AFP reported.
Chen Biemei, 30, pleaded guilty after being arrested August 14th for attempting to smuggle 6.9 kilograms of ivory on to a flight to Hong Kong.
"A precedent has been set by this sentencing, it is a sign that our judiciary is waking up to the scale of the crisis and the damage that is being done to our animals," Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) spokesman Paul Udoto said.
In the past, Kenyan courts have handed down minimal fines and punishments to smugglers.
In March, for example, a Kenyan court fined a Chinese smuggler caught with 439 finger-length pieces of ivory less than $1 apiece.
"It is the longest such sentence I have seen for a long time," Udoto said, referring to Thursday's ruling. "Now those who want to damage our wildlife must also test our prison system."
Poachers have slaughtered more than 160 elephants in Kenya so far in 2013, and during the same period, 17 people were arrested attempting to smuggle ivory out of the country, according to the KWS.
The illegal ivory trade is estimated to be worth up to $10 billion a year with conservationists saying demand primarily comes from China.