December 22, 2011 / 12:37 PM / in 6 years

Kenya seizes more Asia-bound ivory

MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya seized 727 pieces of ivory in a container destined for Asia, a customs official said, the latest in a wave of ivory hauls in the east African country.

Kenyan customs officers and Kenya Wildlife Services officials inspect elephant tusks which were seized inside a warehouse at the port in the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa, December 21, 2011. REUTERS/Joseph Okanga

Customs agents in the port of Mombasa said the contraband was hidden in bags of plastic chips and showed up in a scan of the container ahead of shipment on Wednesday.

“We have found 727 bits of ivory and elephant tusks. Unfortunately we are not able to tell exactly how many elephants have been killed,” Rose Gichira, deputy customs commissioner at the port, said late on Wednesday.

The authorities found several whole elephant tusks bound together with tape and concealed in the sacks

Poaching in Kenya had fallen sharply from the 1980s and 1990s when gangs decimated its elephants and hunted its rhinos to the edge of extinction, but there has been an upsurge in the past few years, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) says.

KWS estimates the world-famous safari destination is now losing around 100 elephants a year to poachers, some of them members of increasingly sophisticated criminal gangs.

It was not immediately clear where the ivory originated from. Mombasa and the capital, Nairobi, are two of the main exit points for smuggled African ivory.

Last month Kenya seized 87 elephant tusks in a container bound for Hong Kong.

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