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Protecting African Elephants


South Africa, Elephants crossing a road.

"We will continue to prosecute vigorously defendants who illegally engage in trade involving endangered or threatened species."

A federal court judge in Brooklyn, New York, sentenced Tamba Kaba to 33 months in prison and a $25,000 fine for smuggling elephant ivory into the United States. The sentence was handed down on December 15, 2010.

Kaba was arrested on November 23, 2009, after a joint investigation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations. The evidence at trial established that Kaba imported into the U.S. two air cargo shipments containing 71 concealed elephant ivory carvings, one shipment from Nigeria and one from Uganda. The carvings were hidden inside the hollow cavities of wooden and metal handicrafts. Kaba received both shipments, paid for their shipping costs, and ultimately sold at least one ivory carving to an art collector in Texas. In total, the carvings had an approximate market value of $73,300.

"We will continue to prosecute vigorously defendants who illegally engage in trade involving endangered or threatened species," said United States Attorney Loretta Lynch.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent in Charge Sal Amato noted, "Great efforts are undertaken in Africa and the United States to conserve African elephants for future generations. The illegal ivory trade undermines the conservation community's efforts in the name of profit and greed." Special Agent Amato said the U.S. hopes that Kaba's sentence "sends a strong message and offers further deterrence to those who seek illegally to profit by plundering protected wildlife."

"This sentence sends a clear message to poachers and ivory smugglers that we and our federal law enforcement partners are focused on putting them out of business," said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge James Hayes. "We will continue using all our resources to identify and apprehend those who exploit threatened species for lucrative profits in total disregard of our laws."

Importation of ivory into the U.S. has been a criminal offense since 1975 when the United States became a party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, an international treaty regulating trade in endangered species. The Africa elephant is listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which implements CITES in the U.S.

The United States is determined to do its part to suppress illegal ivory trading and help protect endangered African elephants.

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