7 November 2013

Kenya: MPs Asked to Pass New Bill to Fight Poaching

Attorney General Githu Muigai has urged MPs to pass the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill, 2013 before they break next month. The proposed law raises jail sentences and introduces hefty fines for poachers. "We are urging Parliament to pass it before it breaks for Christmas," said Muigai yesterday.

He spoke at the ongoing Interpol and Unep meeting in Nairobi that is expected to recommend new proposals to combat poaching and other environmental crimes across the world. Muigai said the proposed law prescribes stiffer penalties and reduces discretion of courts. About 190 elephants and 35 rhinos have been killed in Kenya this year.

Unep executive director Achim Steiner said the meeting will urge affected governments to develop stiffer anti-poaching laws. "The theft of natural resources is a challenge to poverty eradication," Steiner said. Some 17,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2011 at sites monitored by Unep.

Large-scale seizures of ivory destined for Asia have more than doubled since 2009 and reached an all-time high in 2011. Interpol executive director of police services Jean-Michel Louboutin said these criminal networks operate with impunity because there is little evidence of successful arrests, prosecutions or convictions.

"Today all criminality is global and environment crime is the same," he said. "We have to make sure we work together to fight this crime." Unep says poaching is spreading primarily as a result of weak governance and rising demand for illegal ivory in Asia, particularly China, which is the world's largest destination markets.

Earlier this year, an interpol-led operation targeting criminal organisations behind the illegal trafficking of ivory in West and Central Africa resulted in some 66 arrests and the seizure of nearly 4,000 ivory products and 50 elephant tusks, in addition to military grade weapons and cash.

The Nairobi meeting is also expected to propose freezing and ultimately confiscating proceeds from poaching to ensure criminals do not benefit financially from their activities. Currently, penalties for such crimes vary among national governments, where some states impose criminal sanctions for environmental offenses, while others rely on civil or administrative sanctions.

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