Fight against poachers not lost - Kenya

2014-03-25 17:48

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Nairobi - Kenya insisted on Tuesday that it has not lost the battle against poaching, resisting calls from wildlife activists for the ongoing slaughter of elephants and rhinos to be declared a national disaster.

The head of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) also dismissed allegations that known ringleaders of elephant-ivory and rhino-horn poaching groups were acting with impunity, citing dozens of arrests and prosecutions.

"Kenya has not lost the fight against the poaching of its elephant and rhino population and thus it cannot be declared a national disaster," KWS chief William Kiprono told a news conference.

"Conservationists want poaching to be declared a national disaster in the country. We realise the magnitude of the problem is a national issue. But the war is not an event, it is a process," he added.

The comments came a week after veteran conservationist Richard Leakey - himself a former head of the KWS - said a core group of just 20 to 30 poaching bosses were operating with "outrageous impunity" and that Kenya was now the global hub of ivory smuggling.

He said the country needed to declare a "national disaster" or else see its elephants and rhinos go extinct - something that would be a major blow to the top safari destination's tourism earnings.

A recent study by the Kenyan conservation campaign group Wildlife Direct also found that just four percent of those convicted of wildlife crime spent time in jail.

But current KWS chief Kiprono said Kenya now boasted the "toughest wildlife law in Africa" and that 249 suspects have been arrested so far this year.

"Our resolve has been and remains that we shall not condone any further economic saboteurs to visit death on our wildlife," he said.

He said Kenya had also seen a recent reduction in the number of rhino and elephants taken by poachers.

"Eighteen rhino and 51 elephant have been lost to poachers compared to last year, when we lost 59 and 302 rhino and elephant respectively.

"We pride ourselves with the fourth-largest population of 30 000 elephants and 1 040 rhino, the third largest in the world," he said.

Read more on:    kenya wildlife service  |  kenya  |  conservation

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