A court in Nairobi has for the first time fully applied the new wildlife law when it sentences a Chinese ivory smuggler, who was nabbed last week while in transit at JKIA to his flight home to China. He was given the maximum fine of 20 million Kenya Shillings, or equivalent of over US$232,000, and failing to pay the fine will have to spend 7 years in prison.
This loud and clear message to those trying to smuggle ivory while transiting in Nairobi though came too late for yet another Chinese man, who while coming from Lubumbashi and connecting to Guangzhou was late Monday night also arrested while in illegal possession of ivory carvings. He was produces in court yesterday morning and will face trial soon, with all necessary evidence at hand, likely to also receive the same punishment.
Kenya, and the world’s conservation fraternity, is not becoming a truly hostile territory for smugglers, many of whom have in the past been nabbed, admitted their guilt, had their ill-gotten ivory confiscated and then walked away after paying at times just a few hundred dollars in fines. The new law however has given law enforcement a set of steel teeth, and prison terms up to life and fines of – at present exchange rate – around US$232,000 per incident, will undoubtedly serve as a major deterrent, at least for those with eyes to read newspapers, while others dumb enough to carry their blood ivory trinkets with them through Nairobi will face the music and enjoy Kenya’s prison hospitality for several years. Well done to the law enforcement officials, and the sniffer dogs at JKIA for their efforts, and thanks to the Kenyan judiciary for now making an example of those in the dock for such crimes.