It has been 20 years since the international community banned the sale of ivory to protect endangered animals. But Kenyan wildlife officials complain elephants are being slaughtered because of occasional exceptions.
Officials here in Kenya warn the nation's elephants are again in danger. Poachers are venturing into the country's national parks and killing them for their tusks.
Kenya's game wardens fight back to protect the herds. But the head of species and conservation management at the Kenya Wildlife Service, Patrick Omondi, says it is not enough. "Last year we lost 98 elephants to poachers and up to today, this year, we have lost up to 73 elephants. This is a big worry and all this is stimulated because there was an experiment to trade," he said.
CITES, the Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species, banned the ivory trade in 1989, but since then it has permitted countries to participate in periodic sales.
Kenyan officials charge these sales have sparked a new demand for ivory, especially in Asia. Just days ago, they announced the seizure of one million dollars worth of ivory bound for Laos.
The director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (Julius Kipngetich) worries about the impact across Africa. "Just because we have a strong law enforcement, we can't just sit and say we celebrate, we are also worried about those countries that don't have strong law enforcement, because any wildlife anywhere is a loss to us collectively as a planet," he said.
Elephant ivory is lucrative, selling for three-thousand-dollars per kilogram on the black market. And Kenyan officials warn with prices like that, more people will be tempted to poach, unless the ban on the ivory trade is made permanent.