Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) is increasingly becoming a trap location for ivory smugglers no matter the amount or kind of illicit loot they ship or carry.
On Monday night, yet another Chinese traveler, arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where wildlife protection and laws are a far cry from those in place in Kenya and the rest of East Africa, was nabbed at the airport by vigilant security staff, who carried several ivory bungles valued at about 300,000 Kenya shillings (equivalent to about US$3,000) in his baggage.
A similar arrest was done just days earlier when another Chinese man, en route from Cameroon to Guangzhou, was caught with similar items worth 60,000 Kenya shillings.
In early April, 2 more Chinese were nabbed when the JKIA canine unit sniffed out their contraband stowed in checked baggage.
Last month, a shipment was intercepted of several hundred kilograms of blood ivory after Kenyan officials received a tip-off from their counterparts at an airport in the Far East, where a shipment on arrival was found containing ivory, leading to the discovery of more in Nairobi which had not made it on the same flight.
It is alarming that most of those arrested and now facing trial, heavy financial fines, and long jail terms, are Chinese citizens. It is clear that not nearly enough is being done by the Chinese government and their embassies in Africa to warn off potential ivory buyers of the dire consequences when caught. This of course is besides China taking the blame for being responsible for the mass killings of elephant over the greed of Chinese for ivory products, which is soiling the country’s reputation over and above such other issues like human rights, Tibet, and their power grab for islands claimed by other countries.
At the end of the month, Kenya will publicly destroy ivory stocks of about 105 tons, sending a global signal that illegal ivory possession is no longer acceptable or a cavalier delict, but has become a serious crime helping to finance criminal gang activities and even terror groups.