Kenyan conservationist charged with ivory possession

A Kenyan conservationist was charged with illegal possession of 19 kg of elephant ivory at a Nairobi court on 13 May.

Susan Soila, a top official from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, a non-profit organisation tasked with conserving wildlife in Amboseli National Park, was arrested with her son Robert Ntawasa after police found six elephant tusks worth more than $20,000 in Soila's car.

The police stopped the vehicle at Emali, about 150 km south-east of Nairobi, and arrested the pair on three counts of having ivory without permission.

However the defendants have pleaded not guilty to all charges, and claim they were framed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. Soila's lawyer alleges that the state-run service had been "rubbed the wrong way" by the perception that the defendants "have been spearheading conservation efforts" in the park.

Soila and her son were released on a bail and the case will be heard on 17 June. The Amboseli Trust for Elephants expressed its confidence that an investigation will exonerate the pair.

Poaching in Kenya is being fuelled by the demand for ivory from Asia. There were 384 elephants slaughtered last year, up from 289 in 2011, out of total population of about 35,000.

Poachers have killed more than 75 elephants in Kenya so far this year.