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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenya seeks Africa Union backing
for anti-poaching efforts In Nairobi

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- Kenya is planning to lobby the African Union to enhance its war against the poaching menace as the continent’s wildlife heritage is under constant threat from human activities, the country’s wildlife authority said on Monday.

We will therefore lobby with the AU to include the poaching menace in its agenda as a way of fighting wildlife destruction in the continent,” Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director William Kiprono said during celebrations to honor Kenya’s fallen wildlife conservation heroes.

Since the formation of KWS, the force has lost 61 rangers to poachers. Earlier this year, 13 Kenyan wildlife rangers were honored by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild fauna and Flora.

The advocacy will also be escalated to the international arena by targeting countries where the consumption of wildlife products is rampant,” he said.

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 particularly in Asia.

Kiprono said the conservation challenge will never diminish, noting that with the increase in human population, high pricing of wildlife trophies such as the rhino horn and elephant tusks in the black market, pressure on land use, diminishing space for wildlife, climate change, encroachment by invasive species, the destruction of wildlife habitats, and the challenges were expected to increase tremendously.

He said to tackle these challenges effectively called for additional funding and collaboration with other agencies.

Additional rangers had been recruited to beef up security while staff efficiency had been improved through purchase of appropriate tools such as aircrafts, vehicles and firearms, he said. As part of the anti-poaching campaign, awareness and education materials would be made available in the common languages of the consuming countries, he added.

Our commitment to protect all great species and places on earth for humanity remains intact,” he said. The director said that Kenya’s resolve to fight wildlife crime is unbowed.

Let me warn those behind wildlife criminal activities that cost our officers lives, that their days are numbered,” he said.

The east African nation has already created a multi agency anti- poaching crack unit, which has been deployed in the poaching hotspots. The Treasury has already allocated 2.31 million U.S. dollars for the operations of the unit.

KWS said that so far in 2013, Kenya has lost 274 elephants to poachers compared to the 384 elephants that were lost last year.

To address the problems, he said, KWS was seeking support from all corners including other security agencies, the local communities and non governmental organizations.

He called upon NGOs and activists to exercise restraint and be honest when disseminating information on elephant populations to avoid misleading statements.

Kiprono said KWS looked back at the ending year with pride, listing a number of achievements.

He said that the government has already received provisional results for the joint Kenya-Tanzania census for elephants and other large mammals.

Kiprono noted that efforts to rein in criminal gangs engaged in illegal trade of contraband wildlife will be enhanced once the Wildlife Forensic and Genetic Laboratory is operational.

The director said that there is a baby boom among Kenya’s wildlife population. “Records indicate that 95 rhinos were born in 2013,” he said.

KWS Chairman David Mwiraria said that his organization carried out a major translocation of wildlife with a view to decongesting areas where the population is high.

This was aimed at reducing the burden on the ecosystem in the wildlife habitats,” he said.

Ministry of Natural Resources Principal Secretary Richard Lesiyampe said that Kenya’s wildlife sector is suffering from the negative effects of climate change.

Lesiyampe said that prolonged drought and habitat degradation has resulted in wildlife loss. He said that Kenya is in the process of developing the country’s first National Wildlife Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.

Once completed in 2014, it will enable wildlife resources managers to take appropriate actions towards sustaining our ecosystems,” he said.

Wildlife Cabinet Secretary Professor Judy Wakhungu said that the tourism industry is the second largest sector in Kenya’s economy after agriculture. “In fact, it accounts for 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product and 21 percent of total foreign exchange earnings,” she said.

She noted that the government has made a commitment to stamp out poaching so as to secure wildlife species for prosperity.

According to the Wakhungu, the wildlife security threat is a global phenomenon that is driven by high demand for ivory and rhino horn.

She added that the National Assembly has already approved the Wildlife Bill which proposes stiffer penalties for wildlife crimes.

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