KENYA ASKS FOR PAN AFRICAN SUPPORT IN ANTI POACHING EFFORTS
Only days before several tons of ivory will be burned in a symbolic gesture by the Kenyan government, seen as an act of defiance but also a signal to other African countries to intensify their own campaign against poaching, did the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Lusaka Agreement Task Force invite accredited diplomats from fellow African nations. The diplomats were given an overview of the challenges the Lusaka Agreement Task Force was faced with to reduce poaching, on an Africa wide scale, or bring it to a halt, when having to deal with multiple jurisdictions as is the case in cross border poaching and ivory smuggling.
In East Africa, measures to combat poaching and smuggling showed encouraging results with dozens of arrests at airports, seaports and following often transboundary anti poaching operations by security organs. Yet, the legal system appears ill equipped to deal with culprits netted, when often they are out on bail or pay the fines current laws provide for only to resume their activities.
Travelers netted for instance at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, often found carrying blood ivory from third countries in their baggage when transiting in Nairobi, are habitually fined, the ivory is confiscated and then they are on their way home as if nothing happened, leaving however dead elephant and rhinos behind in Africa, where tourism gets increasingly impacted upon by poaching.
There is broadening agreement amongst conservationists, tourism stakeholders and others that African governments need to increase the deterrent against poaching by introducing fines which would financially cripple those involved in poaching and the illegal trade but also add appropriate sentences of not less than 10 years in prison, and where possible with hard labour and strokes of the cane, putting poaching at par with other economic crimes like money laundering and economic sabotage.
That however is not enough, experts have claimed, and as advocated regularly here, ‘consumer nations’ like China – first and foremost – and other South and Far Eastern countries, need to join the band wagon to make importation, possession and processing of blood ivory, rhino horns and other wildlife products like bones and skins a serious criminal offense, carrying hugely deterrent sentences. Only a concerted global effort, where CITES member countries also finally drop their demands for ‘exemptions’ to sell ivory stocks and follow Kenya’s example to burn ivory to take it off the market for good, will ultimately determine if the fight against poaching in Africa can be won, and the tourism sectors in Eastern and Southern Africa be sustained in the long run by preserving their most precious resource – wildlife, on its feet in the wild.
Watch this space as the countdown continues to Kenya’s second historic ivory burning ceremony.