MISSUE NO. 3603 

January 18 - 24, 2013


 Coastweek   Kenya

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Wildlife Service plans to step
up anti-poaching measures

Government statistics indicate that in 2012, Kenya lost
384 elephants and 19 rhinos to trophy poachers compared
to 289 elephants and 29 rhinos in the previous year

Ronald Njoroge and Chris Mgidu

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya on Wednesday vowed to step up anti-poaching measures after experiencing a loss of 19 elephants since the beginning of 2012.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director William Kiprono told journalists in Nairobi that the price of ivory and rhino horns continues to rise and this is fueling the illegal trade.

“In order to respond to these challenges, KWS has developed strategies aimed at enhancing elephant and rhino security to protect them from armed gangs while at the same time dismantling international criminal syndicates,” Kiprono told a news conference in Nairobi .

“Our anti poaching efforts have borne significant achievements in the course of last year. We arrested and took to court 1,949 suspects. They were charged with various wildlife-related offenses. “

The KWS announcement comes in the wake of Tuesday’s seizure of 638 pieces of ivory worth 1.16 million U.S. dollars at the port of Mombasa which were destined for Indonesia from Tanzania while disguised as ornamental stones.

“We are engaging the diplomatic corps of the major destination markets in order to combat the trade,” he said. He said that KWS will not win the war alone and it has therefore enlisted the help of other security agencies both locally and abroad.

Kiprono noted that one suspect has been arrested in connection with last week’s slaughter of 12 elephants in southwest Kenya .

“He is assisting us with leads that will help assemble evidence required to bring the culprits to book,” he said.

According to Kiprono, KWS efforts have also resulted in notable recoveries of illegal wildlife trophies and firearms, including 80 rifles, 2,777 rounds of ammunition and several magazines which have been recovered since January last year.

“We also impounded 46 vehicles, 38 motorbikes, 46 bicycles and a hand drawn cart in various parts of the country. In addition, 1, 677 pieces of ivory weighing 4,644 kilograms were also been recovered,” Kiprono said.

During the same year, the KWS chief said seven rhino horns weighing 14 kilograms were also recovered. Other assorted crude weapons in possession of poachers recovered include poisoned arrows, bows, snares, axes, machetes, knives, spears, power saws and hand saws.

He lauded government efforts to enact new legislation that will classify wildlife poaching as an economic crime with stiffer penalties for offenders.

The director added that in order to apprehend and dismantle poaching syndicates, the security and community engagements budget has increased by ten percent compared to the previous financial year.

“Due to sustained pressure to combat poaching within the KWS managed parks, there has been a crime displacement to areas outside the park,” he said.

Consequently, Kiprono said, that 78 percent of all elephant poaching cases in 2012 occurred in the wildlife dispersal areas outside the parks. The director also reiterated Kenya ’s commitment to saving the last great species on earth for the sake of maintain biodiversity.

KWS noted that this duty comes against the backdrop of challenges including climate change, proliferation of illegal arms, a volatile tourism industry as well as rapid human population growth which has led to encroachment of natural habitats.

According to the government, the decision by the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITIES) to allow southern African countries in 2007 the one-off sale of ivory continues to haunt wildlife conservation efforts.

The director said that during the CITIES meeting slated for March, Kenya together with Burkina Faso , Togo and Mali will seek to ensure that no proposals to trade in elephant ivory can be submitted before the end of the current moratorium which concludes in 2017.

KWS Spokesman Paul Mbugua said that Kenya , which has 1,010 rhinos, is home to the largest population of the animal in east and central Africa and is therefore a main target for poachers.

Government statistics indicate that in 2012, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 19 rhinos to trophy poachers compared to 289 elephants and 29 rhinos in the previous year.

Mbugua noted that livestock incursion into some wildlife protected areas is still high despite efforts to drive them out. He said that Kenya remains an important transit point for ivory destined for international markets because it is one of the major transport hubs in Africa .

According to the wildlife agency, Kenya lost four rangers in 2012 as poachers are now using sophisticated equipments and are prepared to go to any length to continue with their illegal trade.

Mbugua, who is also the Assistant Director of KWS said that speculation of the lifting of the ivory ban is also fueling poaching.

The spokesman added that Kenya is currently carrying out cross border initiatives with both Uganda and Tanzania in relation to wildlife management of joint ecosystems. “The biannual meetings provide the framework for joint patrols in order to curb poaching, “ he said.

The East African nation remains an important link on trade routes to international destinations for illicit consignments of wildlife products and particularly ivory.

Kiprono said Kenya is concerned with the use of her entry/exit points for trafficking of wildlife products. “In ivory trafficking, both Kenyan citizens and foreigners are involved and the destination of the ivory and rhino horns is mainly outside the country,” he said.

The KWS boss said several consignments of ivory have also been intercepted in other parts of the world with reports linking some of the seizures to have originated from Kenya .

“Investigations to establish the origin of the impounded ivory are usually conducted. Some of the ivory has been found to have originated from southern and central African elephant range states, “ he said.

Kiprono said KWS shall continue to work with other law enforcement agencies, especially Customs, the police, INTERPOL, Lusaka Agreement Task Force, Kenya Airports Authority and Kenya Ports Authority, among others in ensuring that local and international laws on wildlife crimes are enforced. 

He said the country’s ivory stockpile under KWS custody is secure and proper management system and accounting procedures are in place and each trophy can easily be traced and accounted for.

He dismissed the allegations and suspicion that the government stockpiles may have been the source of some of these contraband ivory as unfounded, noting that relevant agencies have conducted audits into the safety of the stockpile. KWS is still open for any further audits and verification, if necessary.

Kiprono said the safety of local and international tourists within all protected areas and other areas under KWS jurisdiction was ensured through enhanced visitor security patrols/operations.

“KWS, in close liaison with the Tourist Police Unit, maintained security in wildlife-protected areas as well as on the important access roads linking the different protected areas,” he noted.


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