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Re: Suspected reptiles exporter arrested - Kenya Press Item


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Posted by Thomas on October 05, 2000 at 17:15:07:

In Reply to: Suspected reptiles exporter arrested - Kenya Press Item posted by Wes von Papinešu on May 31, 2000 at 20:07:46:


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Letters
Wednesday, July 5, 2000
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Yes, I exported bugs to the US
I am the American citizen alleged to be the mastermind of the illegal reptiles export syndicate, as reported in the Nation early this year. Your article wrongly put me and some of my associates in a bad light.
Firstly, yes, I have been exporting non-endangered reptile, amphibian and insect species from Kenya to the US and Europe. I have done this according to all international standards.

I was exporting all the animals with all the necessary export papers, including a movement permit and a veterinary health certificate, both issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development.

To my disgust, the Kenya Wildlife Service now says it has been investigating my case for one and a half years.

This is absolutely untrue. I was approached in1998 by Mr Odenyi of the KWS (now dead) in Kwale, after having exported animals for over one year. He informed me what I was doing was all right, but that I should acquire a licence from the KWS besides obtaining a permission from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Thereafter, I wrote a formal application for a permit to collect, breed and export non-endangered species of wildlife, which I handed over to the KWS, Kwale, to be forwarded to the KWS director .

Unfortunately, Mr Odenyi went on leave shortly thereafter, and I never got a reply from the KWS. So I decided to write a second application in 1999, which I faxed directly to the KWS headquarters at Langata, Nairobi, and confirmed by phone that it had come through. Once again I received no reply.

So I spoke with the issuing officer at the Ministry of Agriculture and he assured me the papers he was issuing me were adequate.

In June, this year, about 12-15 KWS rangers in full combat gear and rifles stormed my house at Ukunda, Kwale District, at 7.45 am. They did not have a search warrant. At first, they found one of my workers in the guesthouse and ordered him to lie down . After questioning him, they ordered him at gunpoint to wake me up. I was fairly terrified by the sight of so many rangers with guns in my compound.

It seemed ridiculous that so many rangers would come and terrorise me and my workers. The neighbours must have thought I was a mass murderer or something. I was ordered to dress and taken to Kwale, from where I again was taken to Mombasa and kept for several hours.

In the meanwhile, the rangers remained in my house and arrested anyone who entered the compound. These included a taxi driver who had come to see me in the morning, some children from the neighbourhood, who had brought me some bugs, my housekeeper, askari, friends and all the workers.

All were ordered to sit in the living room and not to leave until I came back in the late evening with their superior. The two children from the neighbourhood who had brought me two scorpions were forced by the rangers to eat the scorpions. One of my workers replied that scorpions are poisonous. So the rangers contented themselves with slapping and caning the two children, who are barely10-years-old! How can the KWS hire such idiots who beat up little children?

I was returned home at about 6 pm, when most people were allowed to go home. The KWS confiscated some frogs, snakes and lizards and took me and two of my workers to the Bamburi police station, where we were kept for four days in the cells.

On Friday, we were finally taken to court and I was fined Sh14,000 for illegaly exporting wildlife. I had no option but to plead guilty as my lawyer had informed me that, without a passport, I could not get bail and might be remanded at Shimo la Tewa for weeks.

Now Mr Rotich [the KWS director], what kind of sense did this make? Why are you sending unqualified rangers to Kwale to terrorise people, like those two children, my workers and me, for exporting snakes, frogs and scorpions which, obviously, are of no benefit to anyone here in Kenya?

There are enough people in this country who have no jobs and sometimes no food. An investor comes up with a brilliant idea, employs 14 local people, and brings in nearly $100,000 within four years by exporting pests, and your officials come to terrorise me!

Now I am back in Europe, 14 people more are unemployed and Kenya is getting $20,000 less every year in revenue.

Thomas Price,

Switzerland.

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