The Star (Nairobi)

21 February 2014

Kenya: Poachers Kill Six Rhinos in a Week

Six rhinos have been killed in the last one week in spite of new anti-poaching laws that stipulate hefty fines or life imprisonment for offenders. One more rhino was wounded by poachers and is fighting for its life at Ol Pejeta ranch in Laikipia.

The six were killed in Solio and Ol Jogi ranches and Nakuru National Park, according to independent reports. Poachers killed two rhinos from each of the three conservancy areas and chopped off the horns.

The rising wave has startled conservationists, who fear Kenya's new punitive law may not have deterred poachers. "The proof of the pudding will be if we put some serious players behind bars," WildlifeDirect executive director Paula Kahumbu said recently.

Three other rhinos were killed in the last three weeks at the Nairobi National Park near the Kenya Wildlife Service headquarters. KWS said poachers killed one of the rhinos in January while the other two died while fighting each other.

Wildlife experts who sought anonymity said there is no possibility of rhinos dying in a fight and accused KWS of hiding the extent of poaching in national parks. KWS spokesman Paul Mbugua said the service can account for every animal that has been lost. "We have nothing to hide. We can account for every animal that has been lost. What do we gain by hiding?" he said.

Experts say if the poaching trend continues, Kenya will have no rhinos in the next three years because poaching is responsible for 60 per cent of all rhino deaths in the country. Fifty nine of the animals were killed by poachers last year compared to 30 in 2012. That left the country with 1,041 rhinos last year, 631 of which are black and the rest white.

However, 38 blacks rhinos have not been seen for the last three years and conservationists think they might have been killed too. Private ranches hold 55 per cent of all rhinos in Kenya.

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