Ivory Smuggling in Mombasa

Ivory Smuggling When I was a child I would climb down the Ras Serani cliffs at Mombasa at low tide to swim and forage on the revealed coral reef.  There you could find chunks of ivory obviously thrown overboard from dhows when apprehended by customs boats. The Arab merchants of Mombasa had been running caravans inland for ivory and slaves for hundreds of years, but the slave trade had been successfully put an end to, so all that was left was for the caravans to stock up on ivory and bring it to the coast for export. This was highly illegal when the British took over governance of the area, and the police at Mombasa struggled to put an end to the trade. James Robert Watcham took over command of Mombasa’s police in 1902.  He had excellent Arabic and Hindustani, having been brought up and schooled in Bangalore and elsewhere. What he would do was dress up as an Arab and frequent Mombasa’s Arab coffee houses to see if he could hear rumours of ivory caravans coming to the coast. He got wind of one’s imminent arrival and posted police at the two creeks leading inland from Mombasa island, where the dhows would go at night to load the ivory. He heard rumours that one batch of ivory was buried near Makupa bridge (the causeway was not built till later) and followed the two Arabs he had overheard to a house in Mombasa old town where he gleaned further details of the plan. Apparently the dhow was to go to Juma’s house at the mangrove swamp near Makupa bridge...