The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Yes, It's Time to Declare Poaching a National Disaster

editorial

Dr. Richard Leakey, a reformist-minded former director of the Kenya Wildlife Service can be counted as one of the Kenyans with the best information as well as the deepest insight into all matters which touch on the nation's wildlife.

So when he asks President Uhuru Kenyatta to declare the poaching menace a national disaster, this must be taken seriously.

Also to be taken seriously is Dr Leakey's claim that those behind the poaching are well known and that the reason poachers have been able to operate with such spectacular success, is that they are under the protection of influential State officials, who feel no real need to protect Kenya's wildlife, and as such, are willing to connive in any short-sighted schemes to profit at the expense of endangered wildlife species.

Dr Leakey persuasively argued that the kind of criminal networks that could successfully plan and execute complex plans for the killing of endangered species living under the protection of the state, are a threat not only to animal populations but also to the economy and the security of the nation.

The numbers speak for themselves: over the past year, 16 rhinos have been killed, of which two were killed in Lake Nakuru National Park; four in Nairobi National Park; and 10 in private conservancies, according to the most reliable reports.

The Lake Nakuru National Park, and the Nairobi National Park, share one thing with the conservancies: these are all areas which are completely fenced in (in the case of the parks) and also highly guarded. To break into these areas; kill a rhino; hack off its horn; and escape undetected - this is a criminal activity which can only be compared with those bank heists which involve a long chain of participants, as well as the active connivance of "insiders".

Kenya cannot afford to continue to lose its wildlife heritage and resource at this rate.

And Dr Leakey's call for the poaching menace to be declared a national disaster - as a means of empowering the government to take drastic measures to save the endangered animals - should be supported by all who want to see the survival of Kenya's rhinos and elephants.

Quote Of The Day: "They serve God well, who serve his creatures." Caroline Sheridan Norton, an English writer was born on March 22, 1808.

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