Nairobi — The government has stepped up anti-poaching operations with a view to stamping out the poaching menace noting that the country has already lost 74 elephants since the year begun.
Through a statement sent to newsrooms, Government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) would deploy 1000 more rangers to beef up wildlife security efforts.
He added that the ranger force would also be equipped with cutting edge training and equipment to facilitate the security operations.
“KWS is modernising its force with the support of the government. We intend to fight poachers at all levels to save our elephants,” he said.
Kariuki however noted that lenient penalties by the Courts were major setbacks in the fight against poaching.
He argued that outdated wildlife laws needed to be reviewed with a view of setting up stiffer penalties and jail terms noting that Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching in 2011 and another 384 elephants in 2012.
The government spokesman expressed hope that the 11th Parliament would give priority to a new wildlife policy also aimed at fighting poaching.
The Constitution has already placed progressive provisions on the protection of the environment including wildlife conservation.
“The government is concerned about this and has facilitated the process of reviewing the wildlife law and policy with a view to having more deterrent penalties and jail terms,” he revealed.
On Wednesday Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) intercepted 1.4 kilograms of worked ivory from four transit passengers who were to connect flights to their final destinations at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Five suitcases belonging to four Chinese and one Vietnamese were selected for further examination and four out of the five were found to conceal worked ivory.
The first suspect’s, Guan Xu, suitcase contained eight round ivory, seven bead bangles, three bars and two pen holders. He arrived from Mozambique and was heading to Hong Kong. His suitcase had an extra foil paper lining to minimise detection through screening.
The second suspect, Zhenghao Liang, had three bangles, three pendants, one necklace and two gemstone bangles. He had also arrived from Mozambique headed to Hong Kong and his suitcase too had an extra foil paper lining to minimise detection.
Guan’s and Zhenghao’s suitcases were unaccompanied luggage.
The third suspect, Nguyen Lien Hue, a Vietnamese aged 43 years had four bangles, two pendants, five Lion claws, four warthog teeth and 12 crocodile scales concealed amongst his personal belongings. He was on transit from Lubumbashi to Hanoi.
Xinhe Liu, a Chinese aged 55 years had two bangles of worked ivory and was on transit from Lubumbashi to Guangzhou.
KRA’s Senior Deputy Commissioner in charge of Communication Kennedy Onyonyi said there was need to focus on all exit points in the country noting that Kenya was among five African countries listed as an ivory source.
“Elephant poaching across Africa is escalating at an alarming rate and scientists confirm that Africa’s forest elephants declined by 62 percent between 2002 and 2012,” he said.
“The price of ivory exploded from Sh12,824 per kilo to more than Sh85,499 per kilo,” he added.
By Wambui Ndonga, Capital FM, 6 April 2013