Kenyan wildlife conservation lobby groups on Saturday took part in the global march to galvanize support for protection of rhinos and elephants that are facing serious threats like poaching and depletion of their habitats. Senior government officials took part in the 10 kilometers walk to raise awareness on the plight of iconic mammals that are the bedrock of Kenya’s tourism sector. Kenyan conservationists joined their counterparts in other parts of the world to participate in this year’s global march for elephants and rhinos whose theme was ‘Justice for elephants and rhinos’.
“There is a renewed commitment by Kenyans from all walks of life to promote wildlife conservation. Our elephants and rhinos are at greater risk of poaching and there is need for collective efforts to save them,” Cabinet Secretary for Environment Judi Wakhungu.
Kenyan government has enacted stringent legislation to deter and prosecute wildlife crimes effectively. Under the new Bill, poachers, traffickers and those committing wildlife crimes will now face much more severe penalties. This includes substantially higher fines, confiscation of property and longer prison terms. Individuals caught smuggling wildlife face fines of at least 10 million Kenya Shillings and prison terms of five years. This legislation was passed in 2014.
“We have turned a new page in the war against poaching thanks to enforcement of tough legislation to punish offenders. Currently, we have the highest number of wildlife traffickers behind bars in recent history,” Wakhungu said. She revealed that fewer than 100 elephants were poached in 2015 while the state and bilateral partners have intensified efforts to disrupt ivory trafficking chain.
Adoption of new surveillance technology and community participation has contributed immensely to a reduction in wildlife crimes. The Kenyan government and donors spent 1 million U.S. dollars to establish the forensic lab that will assist in DNA analysis on wildlife products like trophies, meat, hides and skin. The application of DNA analysis will enhance fast and efficient prosecution of transnational criminals behind the slaughter of big mammals like elephants and rhinos. The launch of the lab marked a significant milestone in the implementation of wildlife conservation and management act, especially in tracing the origin of confiscated wildlife products and pursue offenders.
Kenyan conservationists are lobbying for speedy prosecution of individuals involved in wildlife crimes.