On Monday the 16th of March 2015, two German travellers, Martin and Christin Kotthoff, led to the arrest of two ivory dealers. The bust, which involved the sale of four elephant tusks, took place at a safari camp near Kasane, Botswana, where the African Elephant Summit started this week.
The couple were on holiday when they were approached by Karunga Makuyungo, a staff member of a local safari camp, who asked if they wanted to buy “elephant horn”. Four tusks were offered to them for a price of US$6,000. The couple pretended to be interested, but went immediately to the local Wildlife Anti Poaching Unit to report the offer.
Together with a team of five members from the Wildlife Anti Poaching Unit and the local police they managed to apprehend Karunga and his accomplice Shadreck Kaimbanemoyo, a staff member of the same camp. The two were caught red-handed during the handover of the four tusks at the camp.
The owners of the camp were not involved in the operation and were completely shocked when informed about the incident later on. Karunga Makuyungo and Shadreck Kaimbanemoyo are now awaiting trial in prison.
Martin and Christin Kotthoff currently live in Cape Town and have travel extensively through Africa. Christin Kotthoff, a conservationist and member of the non-profit organisation OSCAP (Outraged SA Citizens Against Poaching), says, “Botswana is the leading country on the continent when it comes to protecting African wildlife. President Ian Khama understands the importance of wildlife for the country’s income from tourism. Personally we are impressed how professionally the local authorities handled the whole operation.”
Martin Kotthoff points out, “There is a strong political will in Botswana to fight corruption. Hence we were optimistic that the authorities would take our report seriously. We are hopeful that the ivory dealers will get the punishment they deserve, which will then also act as a deterrent for other wildlife criminals.”
Christin Kotthoff explains, “Tourists from overseas are coming to Africa to experience its unique wildlife. Today not only elephants are highly threatened, but also rhinos and lions. Less wildlife means less tourists, less jobs and less income. Thus poaching and the illegal wildlife trade is not just a threat for the animals, but also for the African economies and the African people.”
This week Kasane, Botswana is hosting two international meetings on elephant poaching and the illegal wildlife trade in Africa.