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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Conservationists Want To Declare
Poaching Threat National Disaster

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Conservationists have called on the government to declare the current rampant poach-ing a ‘national disaster’ to help curb declining wildlife population.

According to Dr. Richard Leakey, a pal-eontologist and the chairman of the WildlifeDirect, a worldlife conservation charity organization, the elephants will be wiped out in the next 10 years unless measures are undertaken to stem out this crisis.

“Slaughtering of elephant is reoccurring, and if nothing is done about it then the country will lose the remaining 300,000 elephants in Kenya by 2023,” Leakey, former Director of Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), said in Nairobi ahead of the stakeholders’ meeting in Nairobi to chart the way forward.

The poaching menace has brought renewed attention to a crisis that has persisted for decades—the steady decline of Africa’s wildlife due to growing human populations and poverty that has put agricultural communities at odds with wildlife for resources.

Conflict between land for wildlife and land for farmers and pastoralists in Kenya has also reached crisis level with rampant killing of lions and elephants among other types of important wildlife.

The East African nation has also 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.

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.

Leakey said in 1979, 1.2 million elephants roamed the African continent but that number currently is 300,000 elephants.

“We have lost 75 per cent of the elephant herds mainly due to poaching, loss of habitat and human conflict.

“Today the situation is worse.

“Until the elephants are physically counted by an independent group we need to be very wary,” he said.  In order to combat this menace, Leakey said his WildlifeDirect will on Wednesday announce their partnership with key stakeholders in government, NGOs, private sector, local celebrities, community leaders, corporate organizations in a bid to end elephant poaching that is rampantly becoming a catastrophe in the country.

Kenya is among countries in Africa where poaching is rampant despite the vice having been outlawed in the country in 1977.

Poachers target especially rhinos and elephants for their tusks and skins, which fetch a lot of money in the black market.

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Singapore to send 1.8 tons
of raw ivory back to Africa

SINGAPORE (Xinhua) -- Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority is sending back 1.8 tons of raw ivory to Africa for further investigations and enforcement actions there, it said on Tuesday.

The ivory was “inspected and quantity verified” by the authority and the African enforcement authorities in preparation for the return to Africa, it said.

The Singapore authority seized the shipment, estimated to be worth 2.5 million Singapore dollars (1.97 million U.S. dollars), on January 23 when it was in transit in Singapore.

The tusks were en route to another country from Kenya.

They were packed in 65 gunny sacks and falsely declared as waste paper.

The authority said it has concluded its investigations and confirmed that no local importer was involved in the case.

It is working with the Kenyan Wildlife Service, Kenyan Police and the Lusaka Agreement Taskforce in returning the tusks to Africa.

The shipment is the second largest ivory seizure in Singapore since 2002.

Singapore is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and all African and Asian elephants are endangered species.

International trade in ivory has been banned under the convention since 1989.

In Singapore, the maximum penalty for illegal trade of ivory is a fine of 50,000 Singapore dollars (39,370 U.S. dollars) per scheduled specimen and/or imprisonment of up to two years.

The same penalties apply to any transhipment of ivory through Singapore without proper CITES permits from the exporting and importing country.

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Kenya launches partnership
to tackle elephant poaching

By Christine Lagat and Peter Mutai NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on Wednesday announced a new partnership with Kenya Airways and conservation groups to revitalize the campaign against illegal poaching of elephants.

The “Hands off Elephants Campaign,” which is spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has been put together by WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation charity, to create awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue within Kenya, across Africa and around the world.

“Today is an important day for us all as it marks the beginning of public awareness campaigns to help eradicate poaching and trade in ivory products to save our elephants,” said Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources Judi Wakhungu.

The East African nation has the fourth largest elephant population in the world but poaching, environmental pressures and human activities have threatened the survival of this mammal.

Wakhungu reaffirmed the government’s commitment to protect elephants in line with global treaties. Besides endorsing the provisions of the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES), Kenya recently passed a bill that propose harsh punishment on wildlife crimes.

“Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, these penalties and sentences will be enhanced to make them punitive and discourage poaching and ivory traffickers,” Wakhungu added.

She said that the government is stepping up anti-poaching efforts by deploying modern technology and modernization of the KWS in addition to establishing a Canine Unit to detect movements of illegal ivory at all airports and other entry points.

“On its part, the government is committed to ensuring that our wildlife is safe. We will provide the necessary support to KWS and other law enforcement agencies to curb poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory,” Wakhungu said.

She said the government has also directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes, and revised penalties to higher fines of over 11,500 dollars and sentences of over 5 years.

Kenya has invested in state of the art technology to strengthen the fight against wildlife poaching. The cabinet secretary revealed that introduction of scanners and sniffer dogs at border points, airports and seaports has minimized smuggling of ivory and rhinoceros horns.

Wakhungu stressed that healthy collaboration among law enforcement agencies, conservation lobbies, the private sector and communities is critical to strengthen the war against elephant poaching.

Protecting Kenya’s 38,000 elephant herd is both an ecological and economic imperative. Kenya has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days.

KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.  The demand for ivory in the Far East has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand.

Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa’s elephants.

Director-General of the Vision 2030 Delivery Board, Mugo Kibati, said that elephants are a major factor in the success of the tourism industry, which is one of the major sectors in the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

“In our Medium Term Plan, we have set out to grow tourist numbers from the current 2 million to 3 million by the year 2017. However, this will not happen if our elephants disappear,” Kibati said.

In recent days, there has been a surge in cases of poaching, posing a threat to elephants. According to statistics from the KWS, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three years during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010.

Kenya Airways CEO Dr. Titus Naikuni noted that wildlife poaching has harmed Kenya’s image and is a threat to the country’s economic growth and environmental health.

The national airline is behind the “Hands off Elephants” campaign that has been endorsed by state agencies and conservation groups to re-energize the war against poaching of elephants and other big mammals.

“To protect elephants goes beyond illegal trade in ivory. There is an environmental imperative to it due to their critical role in maintaining a healthy ecological balance. Mother Nature is very unforgiving if you destabilize it,” said Naikuni.

Naikuni said that conservation of elephants and other wildlife is the responsibility of all Kenyan individuals, companies and government agencies.

“Elephants are part of our environment; therefore poaching them harms our country and national heritage. Mother Nature is very unforgiving when we change the balance in the environment,” he said.

“This is the reason we decided to get involved. As Kenya Airways, we do not condone poaching or delivery of poached ivory on our flights, and this message has been passed to our staff and passengers. Any of our staff found involved or abetting poaching will face the consequences.”

He urged greater involvement of grassroots communities to boost the fight against elephant poaching in the wild. Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania are both poaching epicenters alongside major transit route for smuggled ivory heading to overseas destinations.

In February, Kenya Airways signed a deal with Born Free Foundation, an international charity, to contribute towards anti- poaching campaigns and conservation of wildlife conservation in Africa, and partner to raise funds for such initiatives.

WidlifeDirect Director Paula Kahumbu, warned that Kenya risks losing most of the elephant species if poaching is not halted.

“An estimated one third of elephant herd in Samburu have no adults due to poaching. It is the responsibility of all state agencies, corporate and ordinary citizens to protect elephants from slaughter by criminals,” Kahumbu told journalists.

She added that creative incentives are needed to encourage communities and ranchers scale up protection of elephants.

“Kenya traditionally has been at the frontline in combating elephant poaching but we have lost that ground in recent years. It is essential that we work together and restore our leadership position in the world to ensuring that we protect our endangered species, and a global heritage,” she said.

Kahumbu, lauded the government for welcoming the initiative which brings Kenyans together to save the country’s heritage.

“While we crack down on wildlife crime in Kenya, we also need the help of governments of Africa, Thailand, China and U.S. whom we are asking to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory.”

“We will also appeal to the hearts of anyone buying ivory in these countries as they are contributing to the slaughter of African elephants,” Kahumbu added.

             

 

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