Another Elephant Ivory Trafficker Walks Free
It was a shocking moment in Kenya when a Mombasa Law Court set free Ephantus Gitonga Mbare who was arrested in December 2016 after allegedly being found dealing in 1097.75kg of elephant ivory.
Mbare was charged on two counts of offences under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013. The first offence of operating as a trophy dealer without a license contrary to section 84(1) as read with section 92 of the WCMA and the second was dealing with wildlife trophies contrary to section 95 of the WCMA.
The 1097.75kg was part of the elephant ivory that was found hidden in teak wood beams en route to Cambodia. The markings on the tusks in that seizure were labelled with CITES identifiers indicating that the tusks were from Burundi government stockpile registered in 1989.
“Every time law enforcement seize elephant tusks there is an expectation of the public that those responsible for the poaching and then trafficking of elephant tusks would be easily detected, swiftly apprehended, diligently prosecuted, harshly sentenced, eventually relieved of their wares and proceeds of wildlife crime through forfeiture. Unfortunately, this is far from reality. In fact, Judicial officers sitting at Mombasa Law Courts have set free a record eight (8) suspected wildlife traffickers in four cases that have all ended in acquittals of all accused,” said Jim Karani-Legal Affairs Manager, WildlifeDirect.
Mbare was acquitted after the court found that the prosecution could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused perpetrated the offence. He was facing a minimum penalty of KES 1 Million and/or a minimum of 5 years imprisonment before this acquittal.