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FLORA AND FAUNA
US posts $1 mln reward targeting Laos poaching ring
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Nov 13, 2013


Zanzibar police seize 40-foot container of ivory
Zanzibar, Tanzania (AFP) Nov 13, 2013 - Police in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on Wednesday said they had seized a 40-foot (12-metre) container hiding an estimated several tonnes' worth of ivory.

The seizure comes as authorities in Tanzania crack down on poaching amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation.

"This is unacceptable, we must end this problem," said Tanzanian Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki, who travelled to Zanzibar after the seizure.

"This is serious, let us join forces to save our natural resources," said the minister as police officers searched the container.

It was not clear where the container was destined for.

Police estimated that several tonnes of ivory were stashed in the container but said they would only be able to give the exact weight of the tusks, as well as the origin and destination of the ivory, once they finished unpacking it.

Kagasheki warned that if authorities were unable to find the owner, the agents who cleared the container on its arrival in Zanzibar's main port would be held accountable.

"How did ivory manage to be transported to Zanzibar for reshipment?" Kagasheki said.

Zanzibar police chief Mussa Ali Mussa said two workers from a local clearing agent, which he refused to name, had been taken into custody.

In August 2011, at the same port, police seized 1,041 elephant tusks hidden in a shipment of anchovies heading for Malaysia.

The consignment had arrived from the Tanzanian economic capital Dar es Salaam.

The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn, used in traditional medicine, and ivory has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.

Last week President Jakaya Kikwete told parliament that a controversial anti-poaching operation that allegedly used a shoot-to-kill policy would continue in a bid to stamp out poaching.

Earlier this month three Chinese nationals were charged in mainland Tanzania for possessing 706 tusks from poached elephants. The trio face a maximum sentence of 20 years if found guilty.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday offered a $1 million reward to help smash a Laos-based poaching network slaughtering endangered elephants and rhinos for their precious horns and tusks.

The reward, the first of its kind by the State Department, targeted the Xaysavang network which operates from Laos as far afield as South Africa, Mozambique, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China.

"The involvement of sophisticated transnational criminal organizations in wildlife trafficking perpetuates corruption, threatens the rule of law and border security in fragile regions," Kerry said in a statement.

He estimated that annual profits from wildlife trafficking reached as much as $8 billion to $10 billion, and were then pumped into other "illicit activities such as narcotics, arms, and human trafficking."

Another effect of poaching was that it "destabilizes communities that depend on wildlife for biodiversity and eco-tourism," he said.

Offering the department's first reward under the transnational organized crime rewards program, Kerry said the Xaysavang network "facilitates the killing of endangered elephants, rhinos, and other species for products such as ivory."

He revealed that several major seizures of illegal wildlife products had been traced back to the network.

The lucrative Asian black market for rhino horn, used in traditional medicine, and ivory has driven a boom in poaching across Africa.

Police in the semi-autonomous Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar on Wednesday said they had seized a 40-foot (12-meter) container hiding an estimated several tonnes' worth of ivory.

The seizure comes as authorities in Tanzania crack down on poaching amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation.

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