30 January 2013

Kenya: How to Win War Against the Poaching Menace

Photo: Ted Kinyanjui/Flickr
Kenya Wildlife Service attend to a poached elephant (file photo).


Kenyan conservationists and members of the Kenya Elephant Forum (KEF) welcome the announcement by the head of the Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Francis Kimemia, that the government is investing 200 million in the war against poaching.

This, together with the announcement of an inquiry into poaching by the Prime Minister last week, reflects a genuine concern by government to the gravity of the situation. We look forward to the arrests of the key players behind this disgusting trade.

Local and international experts including Dr. Iain Douglas Hamilton, Dr. Richard Leakey, Dr. Cynthia Moss, Steve Itela, Dr. Joyce Poole, Dr. Paula Kahumbu, Ian Craig, Dr. Winnie Kiiru and the Chairperson of the KEF Patricia Awori, warn that at the current rates of poaching Kenya's, elephants will be gone from most their range in a few short decades.

The loss to Kenya will be unconscionable - elephants are one of Kenya's most valuable species both economically and ecologically. Kenya's reputation is already damaged by the scale of poaching and ivory trafficking and the impact on tourism alone could include a loss of hundreds of millions if tourists don't see elephants, or worse, see only dead elephants, or are affected by the heavily armed poachers who are operating in Kenyan protected areas.

The Kenya Elephant Forum comprises over 50 Kenyan conservation organizations and individuals who are committed to elephant conservation. While throwing our weight behind the government's anti-poaching efforts and support the arrests of poachers, we wish to remind draw attention to the fact that elephant poaching in Kenya is driven by the demand for ivory in China and other countries in the Far East which have led to a massive rise in the price of ivory. Poachers are responding to the promise of money.

Therefore until the flow of ivory to these countries is stemmed, and the demand crushed, the poaching problem in Kenya is unlikely to improve significantly. Poachers are just getting smarter, and using better weapons and vehicles to move swiftly. In many areas poachers are using motorbikes and ivory is being transported in ingenious ways to avoid detection.

The price of rhino horn is so attractive that in South Africa where enforcement is fierce, poachers are now using highly sophisticated tools including dart guns and helicopters.

Kenyans deserve to know what the real social and economic cost of elephant poaching and trafficking of ivory in Kenya. This includes the cost of insecurity and resulting loss of life and livelihoods as well as loss of their heritage.

Kenyans also demand recognition that the wildlife of Kenya belongs to the people of Kenya and that they have the right to participate in its protection. We request that the Commission create a mechanism through which the public can provide information without fear or intimidation such as a safe hotline.

Recognizing that urgency of the situation, the Kenya Elephant Forum urges the Prime Minster to declare that elephants in Kenya are facing a crisis and immediately create a multi sector Elephant Task Force with 3 key goals. First, to deal decisively with poaching on the ground. Second is to curb the trafficking of ivory through Kenya.

And thirdly we must initiate dialogue with the governments of the major ivory market countries especially China, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines with the view of eliminating the international demand for ivory.

1) Redouble anti-poaching efforts on the ground; Scale up anti-poaching efforts through training, equipment and collaboration with land owners, conservancies and other government defence forces; Investigation of all officials suspected of colluding in poaching and prosecution of suspects and review of penalties and making necessary adjustments to adequately punish Wildlife Criminals

2) Curb ivory trafficking of ivory through Kenya; Investigate and prosecute authorities, companies and individuals suspected of colluding in ivory trafficking; transport, warehousing, clearing and forwarding agencies, shipping companies, KRA, Kenya Ports Authority, Customs, KWS. Review of penalties upwards to adequately punish Wildlife Criminals. Persuade Deputy Public Prosecutor to prosecute wildlife criminal under the Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and the Organized Crime Act or other existing legislation against economic and organized crimes, and cause their assets to be seized under provisions of these acts. Create safe mechanism for public to contribute information, even for cash rewards, to assist with investigations.

3) Kenya must initiate international dialogue to secure cooperation from governments of key ivory consumer countries in the Far East; Kenya must persuade China stem the ivory trafficking in China through a crackdown on illegal ivory traders. Improve international cooperate on ivory trafficking investigations and prosecution of nationals of these countries. China can support elephant conservation programs in Kenya including financing investigations of local and international wildlife police forces such as the Lusaka Task Force. China can also provide leadership in the Asian region to influence other ivory market countries to crack down on trafficking of African ivory. China can play a key leadership role on raising awareness about the impact of ivory trade on African elephants, with the aim of changing the ivory consuming culture in China and the Far East.

By simultaneously eliminating poachers, ivory traders and the demand for ivory in Asia, African elephants can once again be safe. We call on all users of ivory to consider that while we value the ancient Asian culture, we cannot support the ivory trade because it robs Africans of important cultural and biological heritage. The rate at which elephants are being killed is unsustainable, and Africa's elephants cannot satisfy the demand for ivory. The demand must come down. We seek a total worldwide ban on ivory trade into the foreseeable future, and assurances that ivory stockpiles held in government stockpiles are secure.

For more information contact

Patricia Awori aworipat@africaonline.co.ke 0722 510 848

Steve Itela itela@youthforconservation.org 0722 824 038

Paula Kahumbu paula@wildlifedirect.org 0722 685 106

Resson Kantai resson@savetheelephants.org 0701 353 356

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