Kenyan rhino killed despite new laws

2014-01-27 07:03

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Nairobi - Poachers have slaughtered a rhino in the Kenyan capital's national park, officials said on Sunday, as the brazen attack came despite tough new laws designed to stem a surge of such killings.

Amid a wave of rhino and elephant killings across the country, the shooting of the rhino in the heavily guarded Nairobi park - the headquarters of the government's Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) - illustrates how easily poachers are decimating the country's large animals.

"Nairobi National Park is one of the best protected areas, so it is a really shocking thing for us," KWS spokesperson Paul Udoto told AFP.

"The rhino horns were hacked and taken away... investigations are underway."

Kenyan courts have for years had their hands tied by laws that limited their powers over those convicted of wildlife crimes, but a new wildlife act signed into law this month has provided far stiffer penalties.

Previously, punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes was capped at a maximum fine of 40 000 Kenyan shillings (R5 168.44), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.

Some smugglers caught in Kenya with a haul of ivory were even fined less than a dollar a piece.

New laws have massively increased the punishment, with poachers now facing fines of as much as 20 million shillings (R2.5m) and possible life in jail.

Nairobi's national park, which lies just 7km from the tower blocks of the bustling centre, is described by KWS as "a unique ecosystem by being the only protected area in the world close to a capital city".

Poachers killed a rhino in the park in August in a similar attack, escaping with the horn, the first such attack for more than five years.

It is a major rhino sanctuary, and its previously believed secure environment - fenced in for much of its 117km² - was seen as ideal for breeding and restocking other parks.

Read more on:    kenya  |  poaching

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