Alleged ivory and rhino horn trafficking kingpin extradited to the United States

Two black rhinos in Lewa, central Kenya. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Press Release, International Fund for Animal Welfare | February 10, 2021

The arrest and extradition from Kenya to the United States of an alleged kingpin in the trafficking of millions of dollars worth of poached ivory and rhino horn has been hailed as a major victory in the fight against wildlife crime.

A US investigation led to the extradition of Mansur Mohamed Surur, a Kenyan national, charged as part of a group that allegedly smuggled and transported 10 tons of elephant ivory and 400 pounds of rhinoceros horns – worth nearly US $7.5 million – to the US. Kenyan authorities arrested Surur last July and he was extradited to the US late last month. According to prosecutors the items were procured in Uganda, Guinea and Senegal and were sent to buyers in the United States and Southeast Asia.

Matt Morley, Director of Wildlife Crime for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said the extradition was an important development in the prosecution of senior members of the so-called Kromah wildlife trafficking network.

“In this investigation the US Government’s coordinated approach to tackling wildlife crime, is a benchmark example IFAW would encourage other countries to emulate. Until now those involved in wildfire trafficking have enjoyed low risks and high rewards for their crimes – action like this and the recent tough sentences passed down by courts in China in December 2020 against ivory traffickers, are an indication that these days are coming to an end,” said Morley.

US authorities allege the Kromah network is responsible for the illegal slaughter and trafficking of the horns and tusks of dozens of rhinos and more than 100 elephants, both endangered species. The trafficking of the ivory and rhino horn has been linked to drug-related crime. Two of Surur’s co-defendants, Moazu Kromah and Amara Cherif, were earlier arrested and extradited from Uganda and Senegal, respectively. Another defendant, Abdi Hussein Ahmed, is a fugitive.

Surur faces up to life in prison on the top count — conspiracy related to heroin trafficking. He pleaded not guilty through an interpreter.

Poaching and illegal wildlife trafficking threaten the existence of some of the world’s most iconic species that are critical to maintaining the health and biodiversity of the ecosystems they inhabit.