Ivory trade in Hong Kong and China

Chinese ivory smuggler caught in Kenya fined less than US$1 a piece

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 March, 2013, 3:12am

A Chinese smuggler caught in Kenya with a haul of ivory was fined less than a dollar a piece, wildlife officials said yesterday.

Kenya Wildlife Service spokesman Paul Udoto said Tian Yi was arrested on Sunday while in transit in Nairobi carrying 439 pieces of worked ivory.

The ivory, cut into finger-length sections and painted brown, was "hidden in a suitcase and mixed with tree bark to disguise it as traditional medicine", Udoto said.

Tian, who was arrested as he travelled from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Hong Kong, was fined US$350 on Monday and has since been set free, the spokesman added.

Experts suggest a kilogram of ivory has an estimated black-market value of about US$2,500.

Poaching in East Africa has sharply increased recently, but the courts are hampered by sentencing limits that treat smuggling as a petty crime.

Udoto said officers had "intensified security operations and surveillance" in an effort to curb wildlife-related crimes.

The illegal ivory trade is mostly fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, where elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns are used to make traditional medicine and jewellery.