Africa

Police arrest 'most wanted' ivory smuggler in Tanzania

African elephant Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Conservationists say elephant poaching is on the rise across Africa

A Kenyan businessman suspected of being behind an international ivory smuggling ring has been arrested in Tanzania.

Police said that Feisal Mohamed Ali was linked to a three tonne haul of elephant tusks seized in the Kenyan city of Mombasa.

Mr Ali had been in hiding for months and was on an Interpol most-wanted list for ivory traffickers.

Elephant poaching has risen across Africa in recent years, fuelled in part by increasing demand from China.

In June, Kenyan police mounted a raid and discovered ivory equivalent to more than 100 poached elephants.

Since then Ali had been on the run, according to the AFP news agency, and was listed as an "environment criminal" by Interpol before his arrest.

The Kenya Wildlife Service says poachers have killed 142 elephants in the country this year.

A spokesman said the figure was down from 302 last year, due in part to anti-poaching laws.

But in Tanzania, where Mr Ali was arrested, around 10,000 elephants were killed last year.

Conservationists say demand from wealthy buyers in China is fuelling the problem.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Earlier this year, China destroyed a large quantity of confiscated ivory for the first time

In November, an environmentalist group accused officials travelling with Chinese President Xi Jinping of going on an ivory shopping spree during a visit to Tanzania.

The delegation reportedly purchased so many products in a local market that prices soared, according to the group's report.

Both Tanzanian and Chinese officials rejected the allegation.

Researchers believe that since 2010 an average of nearly 35,000 elephants have been killed annually in Africa.

They warn that if the rate of poaching continues, the animals could be virtually wiped out within 10 years.

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