Foreigners arrested with ivory bracelets at Kenyan airport

Seized ivory are seen at a holding area in Singapore. (Handout, National Parks Board, AFP)
Seized ivory are seen at a holding area in Singapore. (Handout, National Parks Board, AFP)

A Spanish woman has become the second foreigner in a week to be arrested at Kenya's international airport for wearing an ivory bangle, the wildlife service said Monday.

Spaniard Maria Pich-Aguilera, 50, was arrested on Sunday evening and pleaded guilty, paying a fine of one million shillings ($9,800) for illegal possession of ivory.

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said in a statement she was "arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport with an ivory bangle," while travelling from Nairobi to Tanzania's financial capital Dar es Salaam. She was allowed to leave for Tanzania after paying her fine.

Last week a Frenchwoman was arrested at the airport on her way from France to Mayotte for possession of an ivory bracelet. She pleaded guilty and also paid the one million shilling fine - the alternative is 12 months in prison.

"We noticed this new trend where ivory is smuggled through worked or processed bangles and we have increased surveillance," said an investigator speaking on condition of anonymity.

A KWS official, also asking not to be named, said that trafficking included "ornamentals made out of ivory".

"It may be legal in other countries but here it is not. That is why you always hear a call to stop ivory trade all over the world because any small or big demand anywhere pushes poachers to meet the demands."

Global trade in elephant ivory has largely been outlawed since 1989 after the animal's numbers plunged from millions in the mid-20th century.

The African Elephant Database estimates that by 2015, fewer than 415 000 of the giant mammals remained on the continent.

Thousands of conservationists and policymakers from more than 180 countries are currently meeting in Geneva to tighten rules on trade in elephant ivory and products from other endangered animal and plants.

The plight of African elephants is expected to dominate debate.

Some states are calling for the strongest possible level of protections for all African elephants, while countries in southern Africa, where populations have traditionally been better protected and healthier, are requesting the resumption of ivory stockpile sales.

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