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iISSUE NO. 3622 

May 31 - June 06, 2013

 

 Coastweek   Kenya


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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

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Conservationists call for inter-
regional policies to curb poaching

integrating the community in the anti-poaching
efforts by enlightening them on the value of
wildlife to their social and economic growth

NAKURU (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s wildlife conservationists on Monday called for comprehensive regional and international efforts to help contain rising poaching in the East African nation.

The conservationists argued that establishing enforceable policies and stringent legislations that cut across the borders could curb illegal poaching and exportation of the pricey animal products.

“Dealing with the root cause of poaching means involving the countries stimulating the demand for the elephant tusks and rhino horns. As a country we may fight it but we need enforceable inter- regional policies to contain the vice,” Director of the Elephant’s Neighbours Center Jim Nyamu told journalists in Nakuru, about 180km northwest of Nairobi.

Nyamu who led fellow wildlife conservationists in an anti- poaching sensitization walk across the Nakuru County stressed the need to embrace a three-tier approach.

These include integrating the community in the anti-poaching efforts by enlightening them on the value of wildlife to their social and economic growth.

“There should also be principal ways of solving problems related to environment and the livelihoods of communities surrounding landscapes where the wildlife live so that they don’t hunt on them while within or outside the protected areas,” Nyamu said. 

“The bias facing conservation efforts in Kenya is also an issue that needs to be solved not only by the government but the whole society. This is a collective responsibility,” he said.

He called on the government to fast track the passage of the revised Wildlife Bill, 2011 to facilitate the enactment of the stiffer penalties against any form of poaching or injury to the reserved animals.

The current legislations, he argued meted out lenient punitive measures to the poachers not consummate to the degree of damage they bring upon the country’s social and economic development.

“Under Cap 376 of the Wildlife Act, 1976, the highest amount of fine a poacher is penalized is only 471 U.S. dollars. This kind of penalty acts like a teaser. They should be penalized more than 24, 000 dollars or imprisoned for over 15 years,” added Nyamu.

The revised wildlife Bill which was tabled in Parliament last week proposes a fine of not more than 24,000 dollars or not less than seven years imprisonment for an individual found guilty of sport hunting.

Subsistence hunting, attracts a fine of not less than 2,400 dollars or be imprisoned for not less than two years. 

For offences relating to government trophies, an individual is subject to a fine of not less than 5,900 dollars or face an imprisonment of not less than three years.

Conservationists have argued that lenient wildlife crime laws are attracting poachers to traffic animal trophies through Kenyan because they know that even if they are arrested, the punishment is not severe.

The KWS has expressed fears that the scenes of 1970s and 80s when poaching was a serious menace, and contributed to the depletion of wildlife including elephants, lions and rhinos are back, are threatening many years of conservation efforts and animal populations that had started to balloon.

Statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, a law enforcer entity responsible for protecting the wildlife, indicates that Kenya has lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers since January.

Out of these elephants, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas.

“If this rate of poaching continues, we are afraid that in the next few years, the elephants and rhinos will be extinct not only in Kenya but other countries too. We must zero rate the demand,” said Niall O’Connor, WWF regional representative who also participated in the walk noted.

Statistics from WWF show that in 1970, Kenya had 167,000 elephants against the current decimated number of 30,000.

Total collected tourism revenue in 2012 shrunk by 3 per cent from the previous year.

In 2011, the country raised 1.2 billion dollars billion but dropped to 1.1 billion dollars the following year.

The Kenya Elephant Forum has already petitioned the Public Prosecutor’s office to prosecute wildlife criminals under the Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and the Organized Crime Act or other existing legislations against economic and organized crimes which impose stiffer penalties like seizing the assets of the criminals.

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has also expressed the government’s intent to raise wildlife crimes against the elephant, rhinos, leopards, buffaloes and lions to capital offences. Capital offences attract lifetime jail-term.

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Kenya pursues poachers
after death of four rhinos

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s wildlife authorities on Monday launched a major security operation to arrest poachers who killed four rhinos in the past week across the East African nation.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the rhinos were killed in Lake Nakuru National Park, Solio Ranch (Nyeri), Ngulia Sanctuary (Tsavo West National Park), and Meru National Park.

“Security teams are following crucial leads and expect to catch up with the perpetrators of the heinous crime,” KWS Corporate Affairs Manager Paul Udoto said in a statement released in Nairobi.

The wildlife agency has enhanced the round-the-clock surveillance at all Kenya’s entry exit and entry points while sniffer dogs and their handlers have proved incorruptible and have once again outsmarted the smugglers.

The East African nation says it’s at a point where it cannot allow further poaching of wildlife because the animal numbers have been reducing at an alarming rate.

Most recent statistics from the KWS for instance indicate that the number of elephants for instance has reduced from a high of 160,000 in 1970s to below 30,000.

KWS said between the 1970s and 1980s Kenya lost over 80 per cent of her elephants, mainly due to intensive poaching of elephants for ivory.

Udoto said the East African nation has lost 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to poachers since the beginning of 2013. Out of these elephants, he said, 37 were killed in protected areas while 80 were outside protected areas.

“These numbers include last week poaching incidents. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 30 rhinos to criminals, a worrying trend that is not sustainable,” he added.

Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching in 2011 and another 384 elephants in 2012. Lion is also one of the most endangered animals not only in Kenya but across Africa. Kenya has an estimated 1,800 lions, down from 2,800 in 2002. The country had 30,000 lions in the 1960s, KWS data reveals.

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Rhino poaching in South Africa “tantamout
to acts of war”: suggest rangers group

CAPE TOWN (Xinhua) -- Unchecked rhino poaching in South Africa is “tantamount to acts of war” and has escalated “from an environmental issue to one of national security,” the Game Rangers’ Association of Africa (GRAA) has said.

“Professionally trained and armed militia from Mozambique enter South Africa to plunder the country’s natural resources on a daily basis,” the GRAA said in a statement available to Xinhua on Wednesday.

“These actions are tantamount to acts of war and such actions are putting not only South African citizens at risk but also one of South Africa’s economic sectors namely tourism,” the group said.  It urged the South African government to take a zero tolerance approach to “what amounts to total disrespect of the country’s borders”.

“We call for an increased South African National Defense Force presence on our borders to maintain their effectiveness in securing the property, economy and citizens of South Africa,” said the GRAA.

The South African government, the group said, must address the matter immediately with Mozambique at the highest possible diplomatic levels, with the mandated ministerial departments and to exert severe pressure on the Mozambican government to address the situation.

“The current disregard by Mozambican citizens of the sovereignty of South Africa’s borders cannot be allowed to continue. The situation has escalated from an environmental issue to one of national security. It is time to acknowledge this and act accordingly with the full force of the law.”

South Africa’s rhino hold significant value within the ecotourism industry, the group said.

“The GRAA does not believe it is the rangers’ responsibility to defend the borders of South Africa against these armed incursions which aim to slaughter the country’s rhino and whoever dares to stand in their defense.”  The rhino poaching crisis being experienced in the South African Kruger National Park (KNP) is increasing in magnitude daily. This situation has escalated to the point whereby as of May 23, 2013, 1, 065 rhino have been poached within the park since 2010, the GRAA said.

It called the current situation “deplorable.”   The KNP, which borders Mozambique, bears the brunt of rhino poaching. It has lost 242 rhinos to poaching since the beginning of this year, according to the latest figures from the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

South African Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs Edena Molewa said on Tuesday that her department is working hard to sign a memorandum of understanding with Mozambique to set up a fence along the boundary of the KNP.

But Mozambique has already postponed the signing of the agreement a number of times.

Two or three meetings with Mozambique on the matter had been postponed. A change of minister on the Mozambique side had also contributed to the delay.

The delay has been going on for one year and a half, Molewa said.

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