Sh32 million sandalwood destroyed as suspects await their day in court

Sandalwood valued at Sh32 million is being destroyed in Samburu County following a court order in a case where two suspects have been charged with trafficking the endangered tree species. [Michael Saitoti, Standard]

The government has destroyed eight tonnes of sandalwood worth Sh32 million following a court order.

The sandalwood was seized from smugglers in Samburu County when two suspects were arrested in possession of the endangered trees.

The product was illegally harvested from Kirisia forest in Samburu in November last year.

The suspects were to answer to charges of illegal possession and trafficking of the produce.

Sandalwood trafficking is a multi-million dollar trade that exploits local communities and leads to deforestation.

On Wednesday, July 12, Samburu Central deputy commissioner Titus Omanyi, said the two suspects were awaiting the hearing of their case in courts.

He said sandalwood remains classified as an endangered species, and according to the law, no one is allowed to trade in it.

“Security agencies in the region have managed to minimize the illegal trade in sandalwood. Security intelligence has helped us to stop the harvesting and trade of the forest product,” Omanyi said.

He revealed that smugglers were now using luxury Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) to transport the product from Samburu, in their attempt to conceal their illegal activities, but warned that security officers are on high alert.

Mr Geoffrey Okelo, the local forest superintendent who attended the destruction of the sandalwood, said forest rangers in the region are on high alert to stop the illegal harvesting of the product.

“We are guarding sandalwood because it is an endangered tree that needs to be protected. Currently, it is difficult to find the seeds to grow this tree. That tree takes a lot of time to mature,” he said.

He added that it required intelligence and security collaboration to protect the tree that is on high demand internationally.