Nairobi — Authorities have recovered approximately 600 Kgs of endangered sandalwood following a multi-agency operation in Isiolo.
Police say the seizure was made when security personnel intercepted a vehicle at Noolotoro area at around 0230hrs.
Two suspects identified as Thomas Lekirapash and Stephen Odour have been placed in custody in connection with the incident.
This latest seizure comes on the heels of a significant sandalwood crackdown in Samburu County during which authorities destroyed 13.5 tonnes of sandalwood valued at Sh54 million.
The exercise conducted at the DCI Headquarters on March 1, was overseen by Environment and Climate Change CS Roselinda Tuya, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss Mohamed Amin and Kenya Forests Service Chief Conservator Julius Kamau and US Ambassador to Kenya Margaret Whitman.
CS Tuya said that the exercise was symbolic and a demonstration of the commitment and teamwork of the various stakeholders to break illicit networks that continuously sought to benefit from the growing illicit trade of sandalwood and its products.
She went on to say that the global demand for the wood oil had led to the creation of an expansive illicit network of traffickers who seek to exploit both community and KFS-managed forests to harvest the woods.
“It is estimated that in Samburu County, 1 kilogram of sandalwood is sold at less than Sh100 which is less than 1 dollar. In the International market on the other hand, 1 litre of sandalwood oil fetches up to 3000 US dollars,” CS Soipan stated.
The destruction came following an order issued by the Chief Magistrate sitting at the Kahawa Law Courts on February 8, 2023.
CS Tuya pointed out that despite the ban on sandalwood harvesting in 2007 overexploitation of the tree has continued to be witnessed in the country.
She expressed the commitment by the government and other stakeholders to eradicate the destruction of forests through illegal sandalwood harvesting in community forests.
“This enforcement challenge is on the table of government and we are making effort to reinforce the enforcement officers through employment of an additional 3,000 officers within the Kenya Forest service to bridge this gap,” she said.
DCI boss Amin said that the East African Sandalwood had been listed within the Wildlife Conservation and Management Sixth Schedule as an Endangered Species.
Amin said that the sandalwood tree is in the same category as the White Rhino, African Elephant and the Blue Whale.
“We do appreciate the need for multi-agency collaboration in the fight against wildlife, forestry and fisheries crimes in Kenya, and we also acknowledge that no institution can single-handedly manage this fight,” he said.
He pointed out that the wildlife taskforce of the DCI works with other agencies to eradicate the vice noting that as a result, authorities have managed to seize about 60 tonnes of sandalwood over the last two years.