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Leading ivory trade investigator killed in Kenya

Monday February 5, 2018

Esmond Martin, whose groundbreaking investigations contributed to the fight against elephant poaching, died after being stabbed at his home in Nairobi

Esmond Martin, holding one of his groundbreaking reports, ‘The South and South East Asian Ivory Markets’, in Nairobi, Kenya March 2002. Photograph: Khalil Senosi/AP

A world-renowned ivory investigator whose detailed reports contributed to the fight against elephant poaching and the illegal wildlife trade has been killed at his home in Kenya, police said on Monday.

Esmond Martin, 75, died after being stabbed at his house in the Nairobi suburb of Langata on Sunday afternoon.

“He was found dead in his house and had stab wounds,” said a police officer. “An investigation has been launched.”

Martin, an American who lived in Kenya for decades, focused on the demand end of the illegal ivory supply chain, describing, quantifying and analysing the Asian ivory markets in China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Laos and elsewhere.

His groundbreaking investigations are credited with contributing to China’s decision to close its legal ivory markets last year, said Paula Kahumbu, a leading Kenyan elephant expert and chief executive of Wildlife Direct, a conservation group.

“He was one of the most important people at the forefront of exposing the ivory trade, addressing the traffickers and dealers themselves,” Kahumbu said.

Poaching has killed an estimated 110,000 elephants over the last decade, with transnational organised crime syndicates taking over the illicit trade.

The most recent figures, for 2016, showed the illegal ivory market continues to thrive with with record ivory seizures despite a decline in poaching.

Latest figures show 197 people were killed around the world last year defending land, wildlife or natural resources.

Martin inspects confiscated rhino horns, elephant tusks and ivory objects at the Taipei Zoo, June 1993. Photograph: Tao Chuan Yeh/AFP/Getty Images


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