The Star (Nairobi)

6 November 2012

Kenya: Call to Give Harsher Punishment to Poachers

Photo: photo: Elles van Gelder
Rhino poaching is on rise in Africa. (File Photo)

Top legal minds came together last Friday at a judicial discussion on the need to met out harsher penalties for wildlife-related crimes.

Convened by African Wildlife Foundation and Kenya Wildlife Service, the meeting focused on the successful prosecution of illegal wildlife trafficking, with the goal of effecting more meaningful deterrents.

The event was attended by individuals from top law firms, as well as representatives from the State Law Office and the Judiciary. "Africa is experiencing an unparalleled surge in wildlife crime that seriously threatens the continued survival of key species," said Helen Gichohi, the president of AWF.

The entry of organised crime syndicates into the illegal wildlife trade has created a crisis situation in many African countries. The syndicates have employed sophisticated methods to poach and illegally traffic wildlife parts; making wildlife protection difficult, dangerous, and expensive.

KWS director William Kibet Kiprono, said: "Our wildlife authority counterparts across the continent have all increased their efforts to protect their wildlife. In some cases, however, the ability to arrest and successfully prosecute these criminals is not quite there."

"As of the end of October, 488 rhinos have been slaughtered this year in South Africa," said Dr Hector Magome, managing executive of the Conservation Service Division, South African National Parks.

"However, increased arrests in South Africa demonstrate that as a country we have implemented some successful measures worthy of consideration by others."

Participants came out of the meeting having agreed on some initial approaches for enhancing the prosecution of illegal wildlife crimes. These include an enhancement of awareness on the part of legal professionals, strict adherence to the current sanctions in place in Kenya's penal code, and a goal of incorporating additional measures in the new wildlife bill.

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