Kenya’s latest anti poaching emergency law cited as serious deterrent against wildlife slaughter


(Posted 02nd June 2013)

Kenya’s parliament, of late under intense scrutiny and attack by the electorate over their elaborate attempts to increase their salaries just weeks into their term of office, has for a change been receiving praise and kudos. Earlier in the week were emergency measures put into place, in line with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agenda to hunt down poachers and restore sanity in the wildlife sector, which saw significant deterrents being introduced.

Fines can now be dished out by magistrates and judges with poaching cases before them to the tune of 120.000 US Dollars, an rise by 2.500 percent compared to the laughable past regime, while jail terms are now reaching up to 15 years in prison, when found guilty.

In the past, smugglers caught at the country’s airports, often got off with no jail time other than their pre-trial detention and paid a few hundred dollars in fines, something which will now change. ‘A full review of the Wildlife Act is still ongoing but for now our magistrates have the tools they need to fine and jail poachers and smugglers. Up to now they have claimed the law does not allow them lengthy prison terms and heavy fines. That law has just changed. We now expect our judiciary to play their part in throwing the book at poachers, traders, financiers and smugglers and hand down stiff fines and long terms in prison. Any magistrate who will still let offenders found guilty off lightly, will be named and shamed and reported to the Judicial Review Commission for failing the country’ wrote a regular Nairobi based conservation source, when passing the information to this correspondent last night. Another source close to the Kenya Wildlife Service, which has just launched a nationwide crackdown on poachers and is in pursuit of some of the gangs, expressed hope that the new fines and prison terms will immediately act as a deterrent but added: ‘when the first poachers go down with an 8 or 10 or even 15 year term, depending on the gravity of their offense and if they are repeat offenders, they will face the reality that their time is up. Once the first trader or financier has been slapped with a fine of 120.000 US Dollars, they will think twice to go back to that line of blood business. We will still expect however that when the main law is amended, it will provide for seizures and confiscation in addition to fines and jail terms. It is an economic crime these gangs commit and they need appropriate punishment when caught’.

Dr. Paula Kahumbu, the country director of Wildlife Direct, who just won a major victory in court against NEMA and KeNHA over the routing of the Southern Bypass together with her co-plaintiffs, was quoted as having said: ‘The passing of this bill is a huge victory, it is the strongest message from the Government of Kenya on the commitment to preserve our national heritage. MPs today voted for Kenya to restore her position as a global leader in wildlife conservation’.

For once full marks for Kenya’s MP’s for having reacted swiftly in passing emergency measures against poaching into law before a further escalation of the slaughter on wildlife could take even more elephant and rhino lives.