David McNevin was arrested with 21 pieces of ornately carved elephant tusks as he boarded a flight to the Netherlands, from Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International airport, according to officials. Uncarved tusks, which sold for £36 a kilo in 1976, can fetch up to £4000 per kg today, while carved items and antique pieces can cost much more.
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said McNevin was seized by a joint security team with five ivory bangles, seven rings, seven pendants and two ornaments, with a total weight of 0.8kg. He was fined 30,000 Kenyan shillings, or £225, the maximum punishment under Kenya’s outdated wildlife law. “For us he was a common criminal,” said Paul Udoto, a KWS spokesman.“He didn’t invoke any diplomatic privilege.
He was just like any other criminal who owned up to his crime. He pleaded guilty. He paid the fine,” he said. Conservationists have warned that elephant poaching is at the worst level since 1989, when the international trade in ivory was banned, because of growing demand from China’s middle class.
Dr Richard Leakey, former Director of KWS and the founder of the charity WildlifeDirect, warned yesterday that elephants could be gone from the wild in Kenya by 2023.