Officials at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi recovered more than a metric ton of illegal ivory in 14 metal boxes disguised as diplomatic baggage.
An anonymous tip alerted officials to the contraband’s presence late Thursday evening. The identities of the people who brought the baggage to the airport are still unknown.
Out of the 14 boxes, three were labeled as being from the Embassy of Papua New Guinea while 11 were labeled as being from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Brunei.
An international team of law enforcement agencies is investigating the smuggling attempt, and will conduct DNA testing to determine the actual origin of the ivory.
Although the ivory trade has been banned since 1989, illegal sales have continued to thrive, especially in Asian countries where the price has gone up from about $100 per kilogram ($100 per 2.2 pounds) to $1,800, creating a lucrative black market.
According to the Environmental News Service, the interception at the airport follows a seizure of 2.03 metric tons of ivory by Thai Customs officials at Bangkok seaport on March 30. This ivory had been shipped through the Port of Mombasa and hidden in a shipment of frozen fish.
Last year, Kenyan authorities apprehended a pair of smugglers trying to leave the country with two tons of ivory and five rhino horns by hiding the loot inside boxes labeled “avocados.”
The Kenya Wildlife Service hopes that the latest incident will help support their desire to implement reforms to deter both poachers and smugglers, including sniffer dogs at the Port of Mombas.
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