Nairobi, Kenya: A suspected ivory dealer was arrested in Githurai Kimbo area, Nairobi and 39 elephant tusks recovered from him. The recovered elephant tusks weighed 112 kilograms and is valued at Sh11.2 million.
Thomas Muhoro Ngatia, 35, was arrested in a dawn raid on Tuesday by officers from the Special Crime Prevention Unit who had been tipped off.
The ivory ranged from old to young elephants that seemed to have been killed at different times. Director of Criminal Investigations Ndegwa Muhoro said the man arrested over the ivory is believed to be part of an international cartel dealing in the illegal trophies.
“We have found materials in his house that suggest he is part of a transnational gang that is dealing in ivory. This is an indication that almost 20 elephants were killed to get the ivory from them,” he said.
Muhoro said they are yet to know if the animals were killed in Kenya or neighbouring countries.
He added officials from the Kenya Wildlife Service will test the recovered ivory to establish the origin of the slain animals.
The DCI said they recovered a funeral programme of one Fredrick Muchina who was last year killed after being linked to an international cartel dealing in ivory. The programme was found in Ngatia’s house indicating he was a friend or part of the group.
“The cartel includes Nigerians who are on a killing spree of elephants to make money,” he said adding they were yet to know where the man planned to take the ivory.
The house is believed to be owned by Ngati's sister who is out of the country. Locals said the suspect usually comes home late in the night.
“He comes home late and usually operates alone. We did not know he is part of the group killing elephants,” said a local.
Muhoro revealed they have established an environmental unit within the DCI to address the menace and other related issues. The unit will work with KWS and Kenya Forest Service to address the menace.
The recovery comes ahead of the planned destruction of 120 tonnes of ivory at Nairobi National Park on April 30, the largest stockpile to be destroyed at a go by any country.
This will be the climax of a summit involving heads of state, conservation experts, philanthropists and corporate leader including Richard Branson, that President Uhuru Kenyatta has set for April 29-30.
The aim of the summit to take place at Mount Kenya Safari Club in Laikipia is to develop a continent-wide response to illegal-wildlife trade.
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The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.
Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
East African nations have recently recorded an increase in poaching incidents.
The illegal ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make ornaments and in traditional medicines.
Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants, whose survival is threatened by poaching and the illegal trade in game trophies, as well as a rising human population that is causing habitat loss.