Last week, 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 labelled “avocados.”
The boxes, which were destined to be shipped to Malaysia, were seized at Nairobi’s international airport, according to the Digital Journal.
Paul Udoto, a spokesman with the Kenya wildlife Service, told the AP that sniffer dogs from the KWS inspection unit, based at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, detected the tusks.
Although the ivory trade has been banned since 1989, illegal sales have continued to thrive in Asian countries, where the price gone up from about $100 per kilogram ($100 per 2.2 pounds) to $1,800, creating a lucrative black market.
Authorities seized 317 pieces of elephant tusk total, and estimate that the ivory required the deaths of 150 elephants.
Experts warn that if illegal trade isn’t stopped, African elephant populations could dramatically plummet in the next decade. Sierra Leone lost its last elephants in December, and Senegal has fewer than 10 left (MSNBC).
Udoto estimated that it took 20 years to amass the collection, and speculated that it was unlikely the elephants were killed for the tusks but rather that someone collected them from elephants that died naturally.
But given the fact that 271 Kenyan elephants were killed by poachers last year, compared with 37 in 2007, it seems like this optimism might be a little misplaced.
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Image Credit: nation.co.ke