KENYA GOVERNMENT COMMENTS ON POACHING BUT FALLS SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS
The Kenyan government has at last taken some action vis a vis the poaching crisis which is gripping the country and which has seen elephant and rhinos poached now almost at will. A meeting yesterday between senior government officials and leading members of the conservation fraternity, has acknowledged that immediate action is needed and the following statement was sent in by a regular source from Nairobi followed by a series of comments made:
‘Our wildlife, which is one of our most important sources of income as a nation, and almost the sole source of our earnings from Tourism, has come under serious assault from poachers in recent days.
We lost at least 360 elephants last year, one of the highest recorded in recent years. This was an increase from at least 289 elephants killed in 2011. The danger seems to be worsening with every passing day.
While the events in Kenya are clearly part of the growing global surge in poaching fuled by high demand for ivory in Asian countries, we have a duty to secure our precious wildlife for posterity and continued economic well-being of our nation.
We must respond to this growing threat in a big way and we must respond fast.
Security agencies must treat the emerging poaching threat as part of the insecurity griping the country and not a wildlife issue to be addressed solely by the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The Internal Security Ministry, together with Treasury need to address the equipment, personnel and logistical needs of the Kenya Wildlife Service to enable us secure our parks and protect our wildlife. The KWS has forwarded its needs to the relevant ministries. Let this not be caught in more bureaucracy and procrastination while our heritage withers.
We need a well coordinated, well-financed and properly designed crackdown on poachers. This must involve the police, the Ministry of Tourism, InterpoI and the various ministries whose functions directly relate to the protection of wildlife and all our precious natural resources currently under threat.
I also appeal to the international community to help strengthen the national and international policing to deal with wildlife trafficking as a serious threat to conservation, rule of law, governance and economic development’.
While there was some satisfaction among the conservation community, several sources in Nairobi however immediately responded to the statement by claiming it was too little too late and a regular contributor used the opportunity of a phone call to say this: ‘What we had expected was that His Excellency President Kibaki would get involved. What we expected and still hope for is a Presidential Directive. What we have, and true it is better than nothing, is a declaration of intent by an outgoing Prime Minister who lacks the power which a Presidential Directive could invoke. Even with elections just over a month away now, a Presidential Directive would immediately avail resources. The statement as you read only speaks of WE MUST RESPOND – that we have been saying to them for months and WE NEED TO ADDRESS – again something we have been saying for months if not longer. We, my colleagues and I, welcome this step but that is what it is. A mere step in the right direction. Knowing the process involved in shifting funds towards KWS is a bureaucratic quagmire. A Presidential Directive would cut right through the red tape and sort this immediately. No arguing over who, where, how, when and why. KWS could have a billion shillings literally overnight. They could buy 15 drones and set up a national surveillance centre like Ol Pejeta is now doing. KDF personnel could be shifted to KWS and deployed within days. Vehicles and aircraft could be moved to the disposal of KWS and more important, fuel would be readily available if the President says DO THIS.
So we hope he still steps in and steps up because this declaration of intent is not enough’.
Another regular commenter added: ‘CITES starts next month. Can Kenya’s position please be strengthened? Can we please demand that China’s ivory trading status be revoked by CITES? And that of other countries always in the bad news like Vietnam too? CITES can back up our national response by outright banning all trade in rhino ivory and China can be put in the dock no matter what they try to stay out of it. Their government is conspiring through silence and looking away what is happening under their noses. In that over regulated society NOTHING happens and the government does not know. They KNOW. They must act and close the carving shops and all. This is what must come on the agenda at CITES plus global conservation groups should step up pressure via social media. I am happy some little progress was made yesterday but there is a lot more to be done. Our parliament betrayed us by trying to enrich themselves instead of passing a new wildlife bill amendment. So this relatively weak statement yesterday is a belated attempt to make up for those omissions, but it is far too little.
I agree with other colleagues, the President must step up now and declare this situation a national emergency. Otherwise, as elections come nearer, this will all be forgotten’.
There was however broad consensus that time was running out as the focus on the upcoming elections could divert the attention of law enforcement over those critical days, leaving a vacuum in other areas like anti poaching, which could be exploited by the highly organized poaching gangs and could see an immediate upswing in poaching in the final run up to election day and the immediate time afterwards when counting is ongoing and results are awaited.
Added yet another regular contributor from Mombasa: ‘Please, they have to get real. They will need every member of GSU and police to be deployed to prevent election violence. You honestly think, or can anyone honestly think, that they will be bothered about poaching when so much is at stake for humans during those critical days? KWS will be left alone and there is not a chance in hell that they get extra personnel and resources when the country is at the brink. As you say, unless the President issues a directive, it will remain all words and take until a new government is in place to bring back to the agenda. Make that clear when you write’.
Time to carefully monitor and see what yesterday’s meeting will accomplish in real terms, not just expressions of intent and good words, and the conservation fraternity will undoubtedly watch with hawk eyes if they have been merely duped into silence or if some true action springs from the positions taken yesterday. Watch this space.