Illegal Ivory Shipments Worth Millions Seized at Kenya and Nairobi Airports
An Animal Rights Article from


Rhishja Larson,
October 2009

[Ed.Note: Also read African Elephants Could be Extinct in 15 Years.]

Kenyan and Ethiopian authorities have seized over 1,200 kilograms (2,600 pounds) of ivory - representing the killing of about 100 elephants.

Raids in the main airports of Kenya and Nairobi have netted two shipments of bloodstained tusks headed for Thailand. While the final destination is not known at the moment, these shipments may be part of the growing link between China and elephant poaching.

Earlier this year, an illegal shipment with a final destination of China was seized in Laos - and late last year, a disturbing connection was noted: Most ivory smugglers arrested at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were found to be Chinese nationals.

In the same BBC report, it was noted that poaching is on the increase due to the insatiable demand for ivory in Asia - no matter what the cost.

Elephant poaching and Chinese workers in Kenya

Wildlife experts on the ground in Kenya are reporting a disturbing increase in elephant killings that coincides with the arrival of Chinese workers for massive road projects.

Most of the elephants have been killed in close proximity to where the Chinese are working.

Moses Litroh, Kenya Wildlife Service elephant program coordinator, sums it up.

More than 50 per cent of the dead elephants we have found have been in that area in the north where the Chinese are working on the road. We can perhaps assume that they have had a hand in it, maybe not all of them, but the coincidence is causing us great concern.

And Wildlife Direct’s Paula Kahumbu pointed out in Reuters out that there are Chinese in Kenya who are obtaining ivory at “local prices” and then reselling when they return to China.

We’ve seen a huge increase in the amount of poaching. We believe it is primarily due to the fact that the ivory sale last November has actually stimulated the markets …

There’s a massive influx of people, who are not very wealthy, who can afford to buy ivory at local prices and who make a lot of money out of it when they get it back to China.

She also points out that the ease of shipping containers of ivory is suspicious.

It (should) not be easy to move a container load of ivory from a country to another when there are such strict regulations. It means there is facilitation going on.

A recent Financial Times article - Shopping Habits of China’s ‘Suddenly Wealthy’ - revealed that the rise in Chinese workers and illegal ivory activity are connected.

In a scramble for Africa’s minerals and resources, the continent has seen a recent influx of Chinese workers – a presence that is visibly reflected in the illegal retailing of ivory.

Naturally, the Chinese government has denied that there is connection to elephant poaching. Mainstream media is attempting to bury the information by repeatedly syndicating reports linking elephant deaths to droughts, but not poaching. A search on the topic will illustrate this point.

Of course, China’s response is little more than a PR exercise - similar to the handling of the Uighur riots earlier this year, when China blocked Twitter and other social networking sites to keep information from getting out of the country.

Coincidences? Really?

The growing flow of information linking China to elephant poaching is too strong to ignore. And at this point, it is irresponsible to continue to do so.

Who will step forward and hold China accountable on the world stage for its role in Kenya’s elephant atrocities?

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