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Alleged Kenya poaching boss denied bail
by Staff Writers
Mombasa, Kenya (AFP) Jan 9, 2015

Sea Shepherd in epic chase of Antarctic 'poaching' ship
Sydney (AFP) Jan 9, 2015 - Environmental activist group Sea Shepherd said Friday it has been chasing a "poaching" ship for three weeks amid heavy ice flows in an attempt to stop the crew from illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean.

Peter Hammarstedt, the captain of Sea Shepherd's lead ship, Bob Barker, said his crew has been pursuing the Nigerian-flagged boat Thunder for 22 days, in what the group said is the world's longest sea chase of an alleged poaching vessel.

"When we found them, they were actively fishing," Hammarstedt told AFP from the Bob Barker, which on Friday was about 900 nautical miles south-east of South Africa.

The chase started 2,300 nautical miles from South Africa -- or about 80 nautical miles outside of Australian Antarctic waters -- in a fishing area regulated by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), a multi-national body.

"I radioed them and told them they were committing a crime... it's been 22 days since then and they've taken us through a gauntlet of heavy ice and heavy seas," he said.

"Certainly we are prepared to chase these poachers to the ends of the Earth and back if we have to."

Hammarstedt said Thunder's crew had tried to shake off their pursuers by sailing through waters with moderate and heavy ice flows.

At one stage, the ice had become so heavy the captain said he had to use the Bob Barker as a "500-tonne steel snow plough to get through".

Thunder, on a list of boats deemed to have engaged in illegal, unreported, or unregulated fishing activities by CCAMLR, is suspected of illegal fishing for Patagonian toothfish and other rare species in the Antarctic.

Two gillnets left behind by Thunder were retrieved with more than 700 Patagonian toothfish and other marine life dead in the mesh, Sea Shepherd said.

Toothfish are sold as Chilean sea bass which is popular in high-end restaurants. It sells primarily in the United States, Europe and Japan, though there is also a growing market in China.

A court in Kenya on Friday denied bail to a suspected ivory trafficking ringleader, after the prosecution argued his release would be a major blow to the fight against rampant poaching.

Kenyan national Feisal Mohammed Ali, who figured on an Interpol list of the nine most wanted suspects linked to crimes against the environment, was arrested by international police agents in Tanzania last month and extradited to face charges in Kenya's port city of Mombasa.

Magistrate Justus Kituku said Ali was a flight risk, as he had already fled Kenya to escape arrest.

"It shows he was trying to avoid the ends of justice... for that reason alone I found that there were convincing reasons why the accused should be denied bond," Kituku said.

Ali faces trial for possession of and dealing in elephant tusks weighing more than two tonnes -- equivalent to at least 114 slaughtered elephants. The haul was discovered by police in June when they raided a car dealership, and after which Ali fled to Tanzania.

He has denied all charges.

Detectives close to the case have described Ali as the leader of a multi-million dollar international poaching network.

- Wild elephants face extinction -

They also say he has enjoyed protection from top officials in various east African security agencies and governments -- backing up allegations from wildlife campaigners that poaching ringleaders have for years been able to operate with almost total impunity.

Last month state counsel Alexander Muteti described Ali, 47, as an "international fugitive who cannot be trusted."

"If the court allows a person like the accused to operate with impunity, there is no doubt that there will not be a single elephant left in the country to be seen by future generations," he said.

Ali is due to next appear in court on January 20.

Elephant ivory is sought out for jewellery and decorative objects and much of it is smuggled to China, where many increasingly wealthy shoppers are buying ivory trinkets as a sign of financial success.

A sharp rise in poaching in Kenya, which is home to an estimated 30,000 elephants and just over one thousand rhinos, has sparked warnings from conservation groups that the government is losing the fight against the slaughter and that elephants could be extinct in the wild within a generation.

Organised crime syndicates and rebel militia increasingly use poaching to fund insurgencies, reaping the benefits of multi-million-dollar demand.

Save the Elephants estimates an average of 33,000 elephants have been lost across Africa to poachers each year between 2010 and 2012.

The conservation group warned last month that the slaughter of elephants and illegal trade in ivory in China was "out of control" and could push wild elephants to extinction within a generation.

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