KENYA LAUNCHES A NEW ELITE ANTI POACHING UNIT
(Posted 06th August 2013)
Sources from within Kenya’s conservation fraternity have confirmed that a new elite anti poaching unit has been launched at a time when key amendments to the current Wildlife Act are discussed in the national assembly. KWS Executive Director Kiprono has in fact suggested that poaching of animals threatened with extinction, like rhinos, be punished with life imprisonment, but the argument rages on if fines now proposed are sufficient to deter poaching, the financing of it and the traders involved in the illicit smuggling of blood ivory.
‘Fines between 10 and 15 million are not enough. Consider for how long this law will be in place and we end up like now when poachers or smugglers laugh about the small amount they pay to get off the hook. Let us be serious and start fines with 25 million. Then make provisions for cars and property used, bank accounts included, to be seized by the state once a conviction has been handed down by court. Prison terms should not be less than 10 years and be open ended’ contributed the source when passing on the information.
The Cabinet Secretary responsible for wildlife, Prof. Judy Wakhungu, will launch the new force of initially 120 members, which will be a rapid deployment unit, on Thursday this week. The composition of the new team comprises KWS personnel and a number of other security organs thought of importance to add competence and capabilities to the new force.
While KWS had continued to fight poaching, responses have at times been agonizingly slow, too slow for those who reported incidents, leading to private sector efforts to complement government anti poaching efforts with their own initiatives. Ol Pejeta has been leading the way by purchasing the country’s first ever UAV, also known as a drone, which will shortly arrive in Kenya and be deployed over the sprawling wildlife sanctuary, where the highest number of rhinos are found in the entire country. The Ol Pejeta team is also part of an airborne intervention force operating out of Nanyuki, supported by among others Tropic Air, a private airline which has offered the use of their helicopter for instant deployment of armed personnel into the field, while awaiting other KWS units to then mobilize and join.
While Kenya, through added detection measures at airports and seaports and improved intelligence gathering, has recorded significant successes in confiscating blood ivory, finds in seaports in the Middle East and Far / South East however suggest that only a fraction of the illicit cargos are however caught before leaving Africa while the majority of such shipments reaches the ivory hungry consumer markets of Vietnam and China, among other countries in the wider Asian region.
The fight against poaching, spearheaded now by Kenya’s First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who was brought on board by among others Dr. Paula Kahumbu to join the ‘Hands off our Elephant’ campaign, has gained new momentum and it is hoped that with such top level involvement the government will take a much tougher stand on poaching, trading and financing of such activities. Watch this space.