Highly lucrative ivory smuggling has blighted Africa in recent
years, with surging demand from rapidly growing Asian economies
leading to the slaughter of thousands of rare and endangered
animals, often from well-protected game parks.
Magistrate William Oketch said that Tang Yong Jian, who pleaded
guilty to charges of illegal possession and dealing in ivory, could
not claim ignorance given the huge publicity surrounding the illicit
Jian, 40, was caught with 3.4kg of raw ivory in Kenya while in
transit from Nampula, Mozambique, to Guangzhou in China, where ivory
is sold in open markets.
Conservationists hope the tough new wildlife law will deter criminal
networks from smuggling ivory out of Kenya's main Mombasa port and
its airports. The east African country has emerged as a major
transit route for ivory destined for Asian markets from eastern and
"The sentence meted out today ... shows wildlife crime will no
longer be a lucrative business. The game has changed. It will now be
a high-cost, low-benefit venture," said Paul Udoto, director of
communications at the state-run Kenya Wildlife Service.
Conservation groups warn, however, that the ivory trade will remain
a multimillion-dollar business until demand for ivory, considered a
status symbol among China's fast-growing middle class, falls.
Kenya, which fears the slaughter of its elephants could harm its
tourism industry, passed the new wildlife bill late last year,
including stiffer punishments for poachers and wildlife traffickers.
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Another Chinese man suspected of trying to smuggle ivory through
Kenya's main airport was arrested on Monday, the Kenya Wildlife
Service said. On Sunday local media reported that an endangered
rhino was killed and its horn hacked off in a national park on the
edge of the capital, Nairobi. It is one of the best-guarded game
parks in Kenya.
Rhino horn has a street value of more than $65,000 per kg in Asia,
conservation groups say, making it more valuable than platinum, gold
or cocaine. ($1 = 85.8000 Kenyan shillings)
(Additional reporting by Richard Lough;
editing by Drazen Jorgic and
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