The Kenyan parliament has approved emergency measures to tackle the on-going poaching crisis: last week Kenyan MPs approved legislation that should lead to higher penalties for paochers. The emergency measure passed just as Kenya Wildlife Service’s (KWS) is pursuing a gang of poachers that slaughtered four rhinos over the weekend. Both rhinos and elephants have suffered heavily as poaching has escalated in Kenya and beyond.
“Kenya’s elephants declined from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching. Today Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants and 1,025 rhinos. These animals are a major tourism attraction and anyone who threatens them is committing economic sabotage and should be treated as such,” Chachu Ganya, MP for North Horr, told fellow legislatures during deliberation. Since January 1st, Kenya has already lost 117 elephants and 21 rhinos to wildlife poachers. Ganya has asked for penalties to be raised to $120,000 fines and up to 15 years in jail.
Kenya has been known for years as having light penalties for poachers, including a fine of around $480 and up to two years in jail, though this prison time was rarely applied. If the new penalties are approved it would raise possible fines by 25 times and jail time by 7 times.
“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,” says Paula Kahumbu, the Executive Director of Kenya-based NGO, WildlifeDirect, which is campaigning to protect elephants in Kenya.
Rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in East Asia has caused a poaching crisis in recent years across Africa. Over 1,000 rhinos have been killed on the continent in the last 18 months. Their horns are sawn off and ground into a powder which is taken as a curative in East Asia, despite no scientific evidence of medicinal properties. Elephants have also seen numbers shrink in many countries as demand for illegal ivory grows. Forest elephants, which are found largely in the Congo Basin, have been decimated by this demand: a recent study found that over 60 percent of the world’s forest elephants have been slaughtered in the last decade. Some scientists believe forest elephants should be designated as a distinct species from their larger, savannah cousins.
Orphaned elephant drinking milk at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. Elephant poaching has left behind a score of orphans. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
(05/23/2013) A private safari company has moved six white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) from their home in South Africa to Botswana in a bid to save them from an out-of-control poaching crisis in their native land. Currently, around two rhinos are killed everyday in South Africa for their horns, which are then smuggled to East Asia.
(05/22/2013) Prince Charles has warned that criminal gangs are turning to animal poaching, an unprecedented slaughter of species that can only be stopped by waging war on the perpetrators, in the latest of a series of increasingly outspoken speeches about the environment. Addressing a conference of conservationists at St James’s Palace in London, the Prince of Wales announced a meeting of heads of state to take place this autumn in London under government auspices to combat what he described as an emerging, militarized crisis.
(05/18/2013) Gabon has agreed to help battle poaching in protected areas in the Central African Republic following an elephant massacre at a renowned World Heritage site, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS).
(05/10/2013) Dozens of elephants have been slaughtered in the Dzanga Bai World Heritage Site in the Central African Republic just days after conservationists warned about an impending threat from the movement of 17 heavily armed poachers. The massacre occurred at a site renowned as ‘village of elephants’, where tourists and scientists have for decades observed wild elephants congregating at a large clearing to feed on minerals.
(05/07/2013) Local researchers and wildlife guards say 17 armed elephant poachers have gained access to Dzanga Bai, a large waterhole and clearing where up to 200 forest elephants visit daily in the Central African Republic (CAR)’s Dzanga-Ndoki National Park. WWF, which works in the region but has recently evacuated due to rising violence, is calling on the CAR government to rapidly mobilize its military to stop another elephant bloodbath in central Africa. Elephants are being killed across their range for their ivory, which is mostly smuggled to East Asia.
(05/07/2013) On March 21st, the organization Save the Elephants posted on their Facebook page that two African elephants had been poached inside a nearby reserve: “Sad news from the north of Kenya. Usually the national reserves are safe havens for elephants, and they know it. But in the last two weeks two of our study animals have been shot inside the Buffalo Springs reserve. First an 18 year-old bull called Ngampit and then, yesterday, 23 year-old female called Cirrocumulus (from the Clouds family).”
(04/25/2013) Poachers have likely killed off the last rhinos in Mozambique’s Limpopo National Park, according to a park official.
(04/25/2013) WWF and the Wildlife Conversation Society (WCS) are issuing an immediate call for action as they report that poachers are killing sizable numbers of forest elephants near the Dzanga-Sangha protected areas in the Central African Republic (CAR). The two large conservation groups have evacuated their staff from the area after a government coup, but local rangers are still trying to determine the scale of the killing while defending remaining elephants. In total the conservation groups believe the parks are home to over 3,000 elephants.