EA countries lead in illicit ivory trade
Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda contributed two-thirds of the illegal ivory seized in 2011 around the world.
A new report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UONDC) shows that Tanzania accounts for 37 per cent of the total global seizure of ivory with Kenya following closely at 27 per cent. Uganda contributed 3 per cent of the ivory seized.
Only 10 per cent came from Southern Africa, with West Africa contributing 4 per cent, twice the amount of ivory seized from Central Africa.
The remaining 17 per cent was held from outside Africa.
The report, dubbed Transnational Organised Crime in Eastern Africa: A Threat Assessment cites illicit markets and weak laws as the two major dynamics that have allowed poachers and smugglers to penetrate the region’s porous borders, isolated coastal areas and sometimes the busy ports to traffick illegal ivory and drugs.
“Illicit markets and weakness in the rule of law are the two major distinct dynamics that drive this trade,” said UNODC lead researcher Joanna Wright at the launch of the report at a Nairobi hotel last week.
The report says corrupt law enforcement officers who leak operational details to traffickers have made it difficult for the region to curb the runaway crime.
“There is an urgent need to address these threats by strengthening regional co-operation and sharing information across the region,” Ms Wright said.
With Tanzania and Kenya accounting for 64 per cent of the illicit trade, a staggering $30.6 million was raked in by the traffickers from the two East African nations alone.
“Most of the illicit ivory trafficked from Africa passes through the ports of Kenya and Tanzania, and the two countries act as both sources and transit areas,” added the report.
Linking the rising spread of poaching to the increasing demand for illegal ivory in the rapidly growing economies of Asia, the report added that expatriate Chinese in the region are now involved in the illicit trade.
“Although they have taken measures to address the illicit trade, Thailand and China remain two of the most important destinations of illegal ivory,” says the report.
The report comes on the heels of another study by four international agencies early last month that linked the influx of Chinese nationals into Africa to the sharp rise in elephant poaching in the region.
However, Chinese embassy spokesperson in Nairobi Shifan Wu denied the claims, saying Kenya and China have signed an agreement to work together in combating elephant and rhino poaching.
While illegal ivory is being transshipped to the Asian market, heroin is being smuggled into East Africa.
The report says that the bulk of the drug is transported by dhow to East Africa from the Makran Coast, an area that spans Iran and Pakistan.
A large proportion of the drug is being retained in the region for local consumption according to the report.