Nearly 1,800 tusks were confiscated yesterday by authorities in Singapore, making it one of the largest busts ever against global syndicates trading in blood ivory. The consignment, found in a container shipped from the Kenyan port of Mombasa, reportedly weighed some 3.7 tons and represents over 900 dead elephant. The seizure was made possible after Kenyan customs and security services alerted their Singaporean colleagues after finding similarities in the shipping documents of this container vis-a-vis one seized two weeks ago, bearing the same names.
Kenyan conservation sources conceded that the ivory may not have originated from Kenya itself but most likely only used Kenyan transit routes and could have come from either Tanzania or else via Uganda from South Sudan or Eastern Congo.
This is the second container where blood ivory was hidden in a shipment of tea nabbed within weeks as a similar amount of blood ivory was found weighing around 3 tons. Questions are now being asked if the scanner normally used to check containers before being heaved on ships was sabotaged to ensure that major shipments of blood ivory could leave the Kenyan port without detection and demands were immediately made to inspect every tea container manually and not pick just some of them at random.
The East African ports have in recent years become major trafficking points for blood ivory, rhino horn and other prohibited wildlife items such as skins, although illegal live exports of birds and reptiles have also significantly increased over the past years, in line with rocketing demand in mainly China, Vietnam and other South and Far Eastern countries.
Only last month a delegation of the Kenya Wildlife Service was in China to engage with the Chinese government to come on board to stem the poaching tsunami which has decimated the East African elephant population, in particular in Tanzania, by the tens of thousands over the past few years, threatening the very survival of the species if domestic demand for ivory trinkets and carving is not halted in China. While the Chinese government has made token gestures towards reducing the greed for ivory among affluent Chinese citizens, the international conservation community has blamed them for not doing enough to criminalize possession and processing of ivory and in particular shutting down the ivory carveries which continue to do booming business.