Scores of illegal ivory dealers arrested

18th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

The operation, which targeted local ivory markets, airports and border crossings in Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia, saw 57 suspects arrested.

Nairobi -- Dozens of suspected dealers in illegal wildlife products have been arrested and one ton of ivory products seized in an operation encompassing five African countries, Interpol said Monday.

The operation, which targeted local ivory markets, airports and border crossings in Kenya, Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Uganda and Zambia, saw 57 suspects arrested.

The German government is one of the major financial supporters of the operation.

Aside from raw, powdered and processes ivory products, cheetah, leopard, several wild cat and python skins were seized.

INTERPOL said the simultaneous raids took place over the weekend and were the culmination of a four month undercover operation code named 'Operation Baba'. The operation involved the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force.

The task force is an inter-governmental body designed to help African nations cooperate in curbing the illegal trade in flora and fauna.

Some 36 of the suspected ivory dealers were seized in Kenya, many of them in and around national parks and reserves. Three Chinese nationals were amongst those arrested in Kenya.

"Project Baba was a huge success in Kenya," KWS Director Julius Kipng'etich said in a statement. "We strongly believe that the ivory trade fuels the illegal killing of elephants."

The ivory trade has been banned since 1989 but illegal sales have thrived with demand fuelled largely by China and Japan.

Japanese and Chinese traders took part in a controversial ivory sale in South Africa earlier this month. The sale raised 6.7 million dollars.

The UN backed Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) last year gave the go-ahead for the governments of South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana to sell ivory accumulated in their national parks in a single day.

However, animal rights groups objected to the auctions, saying all sales of ivory - even legal - stimulate black market trade and, consequentially, elephant poaching.

INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said that Operation Baba was the first in a series of such operations being planned worldwide.


DPA/Expatica

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