Vietnamese stands trial in Kenya for ivory trafficking

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A Vietnamese man appeared at a court in Kenya on Monday (April 8) after he was arrested Sunday at a local airport trying to leave for Thailand with several dozen kilograms of ivory, Kenyan wildlife authorities said.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a Kenyan state-run conservation agency, did not give further details of the proceedings at the Makadara Law Court in Nairobi Kenya's capital.

Nguyen Viet Truong Phong, 39, was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by a joint security team from the Kenya Airports Police Unit, Kenya Revenue Authority, Kenya Airways and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

Phong had with him 488 pieces of ivory bangles weighing 33.6 kilograms, which had been painted brown and yellow, disguised as soapstone and hidden in a suitcase, according to KWS.

This way of disguising ivory to smuggle through its ports has become a new trend, KWS said.

KWS and other law enforcement agencies have increased surveillance to detect illegal wildlife product consignments, especially ivory, at all the country's ports.

Kenya's CapitalFM News quoted government spokesman Muthui Kariuki as saying in its April 6 news report that 1,000 additional rangers from KWS will be deployed to curb poaching and save elephants in Kenya. The African nation has seen 74 elephants poached so far this year.

Kenya lost 289 elephants in 2011 to poaching and the number went up almost 25 per cent, Kariuki said.

According to KWS, the number of elephants in the country has gone down to less than 30,000 from 160,000 in the 1970s.

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The 178-member Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) last month mentioned Kenya and Vietnam as two of the eight countries known for their involvement in the international illegal ivory trade. Kenya is among the main sources and Vietnam a main transit point for the illegal trade in ivory.

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