Kenya Wildlife Service impounds 34 containers of Rosewood timber at Mombasa Port

The containers seized at the port loaded with Malagasy Rosewood timber in transit to Hong Kong from Zanzibar. [Photo: Gideon Maundu/Standard]

Mombasa, Kenya: The intelligence wing of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says it has uncovered a multi-million shilling international syndicate at the Mombasa Port involving illegal trade in the endangered Rosewood from Madagascar.

Monday, KWS announced it had seized 34 containers of the priced timber from a vessel, MV Kota Hapas, which had sailed into Mombasa from Zanzibar under a false declaration of cargo.

Illegal loot

KWS Assistant Director Coast Conservation Area Arthur Tuda said the intercepted wood is valued at Sh584 million and they have been tracking the illegal consignment packed in 20 feet containers.

Though the ship that brought the goods is no longer at the port, Tuda said by noon Monday, 13 containers had been opened, searched and their contents verified. “The vessel carrying the wood docked, off loaded the consignment then left.

According to the cargo manifest, the load was declared as ordinary wood from Kenya which is not banned in the international market, this was a ploy to hoodwink us but it did not work,” he said.

The KWS expose’ comes at a time when environmentalists and the international community are trying to find ways of limiting the damage caused by increased illegal logging of precious hardwoods in Madagascar.

Restricted Trade

Rosewoods are strong and heavy with an excellent polish. They are suitable for guitars, marimbas, billiard cues, the black pieces in chess sets, furniture and luxury floorings.

According to copies of the cargo manifest seen by The Standard, cargo loading was done in Zanzibar, a fact disputed by KWS who said Rosewood is only grown in Madagascar.

One of the importers is listed as HK Trading Limited RM 601 Limited Minas Plaza Ital Yaust Sanpokon KLN, Hong Kong with PIL Zanzibar, Tanzania, as the shipper.

The containers, where the wood was found, are at the port’s Verification yard.

Tuda said KWS will liaise with their counterparts in Madagascar to find out if any permits were issued on the consignment.

“Such species of endangered wood are protected and there is restriction in trade of such items,’’ Tuda said.