A Mombasa resident walks by the decorative elephant tusks located on Moi Avenue in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa. The monument was defaced by activists on 3 October 2014, who smeared it with dripping red paint and the phrase, 'Mombasa Not 4 Ivory Export'. Photo: Kevin Odit

By Briana Duggan
25 July 2015

(PRI) – Tourists visiting Kenya’s steamy coastal city of Mombasa will likely pose in front of what is perhaps the city’s most iconic symbol, two giant arches made of aluminum and designed to look like elephant tusks. Given to the city by Britain’s Princess Margaret in 1956, the structure was meant to celebrate Kenya’s abundance of wildlife. But today it has become something of an ironic emblem of the city.

Last year, activists defaced the sculptures, smearing them with dripping red paint and the phrase, “Mombasa Not 4 Ivory Export.”

Relative to its neighbors, Kenya has been lauded internationally for its anti-poaching initiatives. The country imposed a strict new wildlife act that imposes life sentences or heavy fines for poaching. With the help of international donors, the Kenya Wildlife Service recently opened a wildlife forensic and genetics laboratory to aid in wildlife crime prosecution. However, even with these advancements, Kenya has one serious weakness.

The port of Mombasa, the country’s largest coastal city, is the single most active ivory trafficking hub in Africa, funneling ivory from East and Central Africa on its way, overwhelmingly, to Asian markets. This trade through Mombasa has increased in recent years, leading to a grim statistic: Since 2009, studies estimate the port of Mombasa has funneled the ivory of 25,000 elephants.

The ivory passing through Mombasa has been labeled as decorating stones, declared as peanuts, and stashed with tea leaves. It has been intercepted in Singapore, Thailand and at the Kenyan port, sometimes in quantities of 1,000 pounds or more.

Experts say the level of sophistication required to move such large quantities over such long distances indicates the involvement of organized crime. [more]

Kenya's Mombasa port is the highway through which Africa's poached animal products pass

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