POLICE in Dar es Salaam have arrested two Kenyans and a Tanzanian in unlawful possession of 214 elephant tusks and five bones of the mammal worth 2.1bn/- at Kimara Stop Over area in Kinondoni municipality over the weekend.
Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander, Mr Suleiman Kova, told a news conference in the city that the suspects were apprehended while preparing to transport the contraband to Kenya.
He said the tusks and bones weighing 450.6-kgs were hidden in fertilizer bags. The zonal police commander pointed out that going by the quantity of tusks seized, means that at least 91 elephants were killed by poachers.
“The mission was to transport the government trophies in a coffin covered by the national flag in order cheat police while on the way,” said the police chief at a news conference jointly convened with the anti-poaching unit.
He named the suspects as Peter Kami, a Kenyan and his wife, Leonida Kabi who is a Tanzanian, plus Kami’s relative, Charles Wainaina (41) who is a resident of Tarakea in Rombo District, Kilimanjaro Region.
“We are also holding a commuter bus driver one Simon aged 42 who was to be used to transport the tusks to Kenya,” said Mr Kova.He said all three suspects would be charged with unlawful possession of the government trophies, but a Tanzanian woman has another charge of attempting to bribe the law enforcers with 15m/- when soliciting their release.
“We are investigating the matter jointly with the Wildlife Department, which is responsible for anti-poaching operations to establish the criminal syndicate in the country, far East and Kenya,” he said.Mr Kova also said the law enforcers impounded different stolen property at the suspects’ house, saying preliminary investigation has indicated that the suspects were behind different robbery incidents in the city.
He said items suspected to have been ill-gotten include a computer, two refrigerators, microwaves, a television set and various furniture. According to the anti-poaching unit chief, Mr Faustine Masalu, about 91 elephants were killed to provide such huge contraband.
Almost ten days ago, Hong Kong customs officers seized four tonnes of ivory worth about $3.4 million, allegedly hidden in shipments from Kenya and Tanzania.The 1,209 pieces of raw ivory tusk and a small number of ivory ornaments were discovered in two containers marked ‘plastic scrap’ and ‘roscoco beans,’ shipped to Hong Kong earlier this week, a customs official said.
The smuggled ivory, weighing 3.81 tonnes — Hong Kong’s largest ever seizure — was found hidden among bags of plastic scraps and beans by customs officers, acting on a tip-off from counterparts in mainland China.Both the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Amb. Khamis Kagasheki and his deputy Mr Lazaro Nyalandu have repeatedly said that there is an international syndicate in ivory trade and the government would fight tirelessly against poaching.
The international trade in elephant ivory, with rare exceptions, has been outlawed since 1989 after elephant populations in Africa dropped from millions in the mid-20th century to some 600,000 by the end of the 1980s.However, a rise in the illegal trade in ivory has been fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks are used in traditional medicines and making of ornaments.
Africa is home to an estimated 472,000 elephants whose survival is threatened by poaching, illegal game hunting and habitat loss.