NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) -- To mark World Elephant Day, a conservationist trying to stem the slaughter of Africa's elephants waited nearly eight hours to meet with Kenya's top police official on Tuesday in order to hand him roughly 400 signatures urging the police to arrest what her group says is the "ivory kingpin" of Kenya.
Wildlife Direct chief executive Paula Kahumbu on Tuesday delivered a petition calling for the arrest of Feizal Ali Mohamed, whom Wildlife Direct alleges is a Mombasa-based businessman evading an arrest warrant in relation to a massive ivory seizure in June.
The delivery of the signatures came on what animal rights activists have labeled World Elephant Day, a day to spread awareness of the lethal threats elephants face from poachers. Demand for ivory from China and Asia have led to the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants by poachers in Africa in recent years, and animal activists fear the killings could lead to extinction of the world's largest mammal.
The U.N.'s Environmental Program says that major criminal cartels are running the global shipments of ivory. Corruption -- the paying of police or border agents to look the other way -- is fueling the global trade, activists say.
"Unless we take ivory trafficking business seriously, by arresting and prosecuting Feizal Ali Mohamed, we will lose. No matter how many poachers we arrest, he will always be able to hire more. We are sacrificing elephants, rangers' lives and our economy so that a few individuals can enrich themselves," Kahumbu said in a statement.
There is an arrest warrant out in Kenya for Mohamed, who is believed to have been in the possession of hundreds of ivory tusks. The country's office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has asked the police for an explanation as to why they have not arrested Mohammed. But he remains at large.
Kenyan law calls for penalties up to life in prison for wildlife crimes, but a previous study by Wildlife Direct found that only 7 percent of offenders convicted of wildlife crimes against elephants and rhinos serve prison time.
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