Mombasa - Kenyan authorities seized 228 whole elephant tusks and 74 others in pieces as they were being packed for export in the port city of Mombasa, police and wildlife officials said on Thursday.
Poaching has surged in the last few years across sub-Saharan Africa, where gangs killed elephants and rhinos to feed Asian demand for ivory and horns for use in traditional medicines.
“Wildlife authority Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officers and police confiscated the ivory in a raid at a warehouse in the port city of Mombasa,” KWS said in a statement.
“The ivory was being prepared for loading and export to a destination we are yet to establish.”
“Our officers had to break into the store to access them,” Nelson Marwa, Mombasa County commissioner told journalists in Mombasa.
Report says the tusks were being packed in sacks made of nylon and sisal.
Marwa said that police arrested one suspect and were searching for another who escaped, noting that the suspect in custody tried to bribe police officers by offering them 57 100 million dollars.
Arthur Tuda, KWS officer in charge of the coastal region, said some of the ivory could have come from as far away as the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“From the colouration of the tusks, we can estimate that the ivory is from different sources,” he said, saying some appeared to be from elephants from Kenya's savannah and others from Congolese forests.
Kenya has imposed stiffer penalties, longer jail terms and bigger fines for wildlife poaching or trafficking, saying poaching is harming tourism, a major earner of foreign exchange.
KWS said in March that Kenya poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants this year.
In 2013, 59 rhinos and 302 elephants were killed, compared with 30 rhinos and 384 elephants in 2012.
Kenyan officers seized 13.5 tonnes of ivory in Mombasa in 2013, mostly originating in other countries in the region.
“At least 249 suspects have so far been arrested this year and prosecuted for various wildlife offences,” KWS said.