7 rhinos killed in 7 days raises red alarm levels in Kenya


Reports about the killing of 7 rhinos and several elephant over the last week has thrown Kenya’s conservation fraternity into a crisis mode, with some already claiming that South Africa’s rhino killing spree – more than 600 rhinos have been poached this year in South Africa – is now coming to Kenya too.

The relatively isolated killings of rhinos over the past year, in national parks but mainly on private conservancies, have suddenly spiraled out of control, and some sources insisting on anonymity are blaming the trend on the belated action South Africa is finally taking to stem the tide.

They lost 1.500 or more rhinos in South Africa over the past 36 months. Finally it seems the message is reaching their government and they are throwing greater resources into that fight. But poachers are cunning criminals. They see their days may be numbered in South Africa and now shift to Kenya. We must immediately react to this new threat. Losing 7 rhinos in a week is unacceptable. Kiprono [William Kiprono, CEO of Kenya Wildlife Services] must act. There is a lot of goodwill out there for him and companies have offered vehicles, aircraft, communications gear to KWS to boost their capacity. The conservancies too must prepare for this war on poaching. I know all eyes are on security problems in the North of Kenya, the Tana Delta and of course the elections. But this is exactly what poachers hope for. If KWS takes the eyes off the ball we will lose out big time. I can only hope that Tanzania is protecting rhinos better than we did last week because they are losing 10.000 elephant a year to poaching which is the biggest number I know of anywhere in Africa. And you in Uganda better be ready not to let those gangs come to you too’ commented a source from Nairobi when discussing the bloody week rhino conservation in Kenya has just seen.

Reportedly has Tanzania though stepped up their anti poaching efforts, no doubt spurred by no nonsense Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism Amb. Khamis Kagesheki, who has declared an all out war on poaching two weeks ago. Immediate results there are the seizure of significant quantities of blood ivory since then and the arrest of several prominent business people now alleged to have financed the menace, and only a few days ago has a safari company given a lift to security personnel chasing down poachers and eventually nabbing them.

Deputy minister Lazaro Nyalandu reportedly said during this week in Dar es Salaam when announcing the seizure of yet more blood ivory: ‘I want to assure you that I won’t sleep, and the Natural Resources and Tourism minister will not sleep until all the elephants and lions in the national parks and game reserves sleep undisturbed. This campaign is aimed at doing away with the problem of poaching once and for all’.

Uganda too has stepped up controls and surveillance and this has resulted also in seizures of ivory and the arrest of poachers but sources in both countries acknowledged that the war on poaching was far from over, in fact only beginning, and had a long way to go. ‘We need to address the issue of demand from China and those countries. If their governments do not help us to drive demand down, we cannot win this battle’ said a senior UWA staff yesterday on condition of anonymity for not being the official spokes person of the organization.

This is something all East African countries are basically agreed on but only a common position and new strategy at the next CITES general meeting in Thailand next year will make it possible to reduce demand while disrupting and dismantling the global racket dealing in blood ivory and rhino horn.

Watch this space.

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