KENYA WILDLIFE SERVICE ROLLS OUT NATIONWIDE ANTI POACHING BATTLE
Following the publication of details that another four rhinos were poached over the past two weeks, 21 overall this year already in Kenya, and at least 117 elephant butchered for their tusks – at least that is the officially confirmed figure which conservation sources claim could be substantially higher – has KWS earlier this week commenced a country wide manhunt for poachers. Compared to 2012, when 30 rhinos and 384 elephant were according to KWS statements killed, the upwards trend of the 2013 figures available until now shows that the menace from across Kenya’s southern borders and beyond has now firmly taken a hold in the country.
Major operations are now underway, hand in hand with other security organs, to hunt down the killers of 11 elephant massacred in the Tsavo area, where authorities blame illegal herdsmen who are at last being pursued now.
A year ago did this correspondent witness the presence of large herds of cattle inside Tsavo, and the camp manager immediately reported their presence to the relevant KWS offices, but according to reports nothing was done at the time and only now has the bitter truth sank in that the lucrative tourism industry could take a serious knock if KWS is not getting a handle on the poaching. In neighbouring Tanzania has a parliamentary report from mid last year put poaching of elephant at 30 a day, though opposition figures have since claimed that the real number may be significantly higher than that, and there, as in Kenya, have the alarm bells been sounded that, should the global syndicates trading in rhino horn and blood ivory not be stopped, it could have a similar economic impact on the tourism industries of the range countries as the piracy of recent years off the African coast impacted on the entire region. Parliament in Nairobi passed a motion last week asking the Kenyan government to add more rangers and increase financial penalties and introduce longer prison terms, while at the same time laying the blame squarely on the door step of China, where skyrocketing demand for ivory has fueled the poaching crisis in Africa.
For now though, as KWS and other security organs are combing the parks and pursuing suspects involved in the illicit trade, it is good luck to them, as they again put their lives on the line to protect Kenya’s priceless wildlife heritage.