POACHING in Africa is done with a high level of sophistication, a wildlife charity has said.
Born Free USA chief executive Adam Roberts yesterday said ivory is shipped in 20-foot or 40-foot containers.
He said they are hidden among legally exported products such as nuts, garlic, sea shells and dried fish.
In his statement, Roberts said the ivory is hidden behind false walls and floors.
“The modern ivory trade is dominated by a small number of mafia-like organisations capable of paying off hunters and drivers.”
He said the network involves park rangers, police officers, customs officials, shipping agents and freight forwarders, detectives and judges to subvert court cases.
Roberts said influential politicians are also paid to facilitate the process and to provide the syndicates with high-level protection.
“There had been this concept that ivory poaching was somewhat opportunistic and being done on a small-scale by local people, but the level of sophistication is greater than we ever thought.”
He said bribery and corruption facilitate the largely uninterrupted flow of ivory tusks.
Poaching reduced significantly last year as a result of increased surveillance by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
KWS recorded 302 elephants poached in 2013, down from 384 in 2012.
“Ivory is worth more than $2,100 (Sh180,600) per kilo at the market but with arrests rare, convictions infrequent and penalties low there are few disincentives,” he said.
“The profits make it worth doing even if you get caught.”