Police in Kenya have seized 1,4 tonnes of smuggled ivory at Nairobi International Airport on Thursday in one of the largest seizures in recent years. One hundred and fifteen elephant tusks, worth an estimated 900,000 euros, were discovered in abandoned metal containers in the import’s section of the airport.
The tusks had been sprinkled with pepper to put sniffer dogs off the scent.
The deputy commander of the airport police, Eunice Kihiko, told the press on Friday that staff at the airport had probably assisted the smugglers as the containers did not seem to have any customs papers.
“We believe we are dealing with a serious criminal network which seems to contain workers at this airport. The fact that the cargo was found in the imports and not the exports section shows that something unusual has taken place,” she declared.
The cargo was bound for Lagos, Nigeria according to stamps on the containers. It listed two different senders – the Embassies of Papua New Guinea and the Kingdom of Brunei in Nairobi. The police asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to verify that these embassies existed.
“They (the smugglers) stamped the containers to create the impression that the tusks came from the two embassies but we believe firmly that this was a ploy,” said Joseph Ngisa, the chief of airport police.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora has forbidden the ivory trade since 1989.
In August 2010, two tonnes of ivory was seized at the same airport.