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Activists demand probe after Asia ivory seizures

20 May 2015, 21:48

Nairobi - A leading Kenyan wildlife protection activist on Wednesday demanded a government investigation after Singapore seized the biggest illegal shipment of ivory and other exotic animal parts in more than a decade.

The head of Wildlife Direct, Paula Kahumbu, said a string of large seizures in Asia of ivory and other exotic animal parts from Kenya pointed to either official incompetence or complicity.

On Tuesday, authorities in Singapore said they had found a 3.7-tonne haul worth an estimated $6 million, including hundreds of pieces of raw ivory, four pieces of rhino horn and 22 teeth believed to be from cheetahs and leopards.

The shipment was on its way to Vietnam and was hidden in bags of tea leaves.

Last month, Thailand also seized three tonnes of elephant ivory stashed in a container shipped from Kenya and marked as tea leaves.

Kahumbu called on Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has repeatedly promised to put an end to poaching, to order "the immediate investigation and prosecution of any government official found to have been negligent or complicit" in the shipments.

"The seizures are a testament to the lack of coordination, or to the complicity, of the different arms of government that should have detected the ivory and taken action," she said.

Ivory ornaments are coveted in Asian countries like Vietnam, Thailand and China, and activists say Africa's iconic wild elephants are being pushed to extinction.

Rhino horn is also prized in parts of Asia for its supposed medicinal properties.

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