Tag Archives: Dr. Paula Kahumbu

Richard Leakey calls on President Kenyatta to invoke Emergency Response on Elephant and Rhino poaching

19 March 2014
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:Dr Richard Leakey, Founder –WildlifeDirect, leakey@turkanabasin.org

“My fellow Kenyans, poaching and the destruction of our environment has no future in this country”

These were the words of President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inauguration almost exactly one year ago. Today in the year of the 50th anniversary of Kenyan independence, I am asking the president to put his words into action and declare a NATIONAL DISASTER. I ask him to invoke emergency measures to crack down on the poachers and to declare elephants and rhinos National Treasures under protection of the state. In 1989, President Daniel Arap Moi took such extraordinary measures and wildlife poaching was curbed within 6 months. I am certain that this can be achieved again.
Elephants and rhinos declining in Kenya
Though KWS are not making information public, already this year we have lost at least 14 rhinos, more than in the whole of last year. Rhinos have been gunned down in our national parks, often in broad daylight and from sites close to ranger posts. Rhinos have also been lost from heavily fortified private conservancies that were believed impregnable. KWS estimates the population of Kenyan rhinos at more than 1,000 of which just over 50% are in the National Parks. However, independent scientists doubt this figure and question the data – 38 rhinos that have not been seen for more than 3 years are still in the parks are still counted in the total. An independent audit of rhinos is conducted in all conservancies but not parks.

KWS report that fewer than 400 elephants are killed annually across the country. The results of a KWS census last month reveal that the elephant population in the Tsavo Ecosystem alone has fallen by 1,500 over 4 years. The census found 800 elephant carcasses.

Newspaper coverage and conservationists in the field also report that elephant are being shot and killed in Tsavo, Masai Mara, and Amboseli and other parks by poachers armed with automatic weapons. Many others are shot with poison arrows, causing unimaginable pain followed by slow death.
Kenya is the world’s hub for ivory smuggling
The latest Interpol report reveals that Kenya is now No. 1 in the world for ivory smuggling. The port of Mombasa serves as a staging post for ivory from Tanzania and many other countries. More than 13 tons of ivory were seized in Kenya last year and we can only speculate at the quantities that passed through undetected.
A study of trials in Kenya reveal that fewer than 4% of all convicted poachers are ever jailed. Interpol reveal that despite many ivory seizures in Kenya, no dealers have ever been arrested and prosecuted in court. A major rhino horn smugglers caught at JKIA was released. A Chinese ivory dealer was sent back to China. If a Kenyan threatened a Chinese Panda bear, he or she would face life imprisonment.

Current measures are not enough
Despite our best efforts, the new law, the creation of an elite force in KWS, the promises of the Judiciary and DPP, and the commitment stated by the President, our elephants and rhinos are being massacred across the nation.

Tough new laws that mean convicted poachers and traffickers can be given life sentences,have not resulted in a single offender jailed without the option of a fine. In a recent case a Chinese man was arrested in Riverside Drive where he was manufacturing ivory carvings and sending them out of Kenya through Chinese mules who are being sent to Kenya as “tourists”. He was sent back to China without ever going to a Kenyan court. Last week the court acquitted Chinese national, Ou Kai Ming, even though he had been caught red-handed by customs officials at JKIA.

On the ground poachers have a free rein in many places. KWS staff who attempt to do their job are under increasing threat of violence and at least 8 KWS rangers have lost their lives to poachers in recent years. Managers who allow poaching to happen on their watch are simply moved to other locations, instead of being held to account for their dereliction of duty.
Emergency provisions under status as National Disaster
The failure of leadership and resources at KWS is compounded by the failure of the state to recognize that this is not just a wildlife crime. The president can no longer ignore the fact that these criminals belong to international crime rings that pose a major threat to the economy and national security. In 1989 President Moi recognized that the country was facing a national crisis and acted presidentially to stop it.
I am calling on the president of the Republic of Kenya to address the problem because our national security agencies are not working together to combat this threat to national security. I am sure that the Ministry, NIS, CID, KWS all know who the top dealers and financiers of this bloody business are. They number fewer than 50 people, some of whom have been exposed in the media, but not one has been arrested to date.
In responding to the threat of piracy Kenya’s performance was exemplary. This is the kind of coordinated, fully committed response we need to the poaching crisis.
The voice and political will of our president are most critically needed if we are to win this war. The Kenyan public, corporations and our international partners will all respond favorably when decisive action is taken. The president cannot afford to leave a legacy for future generations of Kenyans that does not include elephant and rhinos.

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Richard Leakey, 19 March 2014

About us:
WildlifeDirect is a Kenyan NGO and US registered 501(c) (3) organization co-founded in 2004 by Kenyan conservationist Dr. Richard Leakey, who is credited with putting an end to the elephant slaughter in Kenya in the 1980s and delivering an international ban on ivory trade. Kenyan Trustees include Irungu Houghton, Ali Mohamed and Philip Murgor. The CEO is Dr. Paula Kahumbu. WildlifeDirect is headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. WildlifeDirect is dedicated to “Changing minds, behavior and laws to ensure Africa’s critical species endure forever.”

Hands Off Our Elephants, our flagship campaign comprises a winning combination of expertise including wildlife ecologists, communications specialists, lawyers, politicians, media representatives, strategists, and linguists, making us bold, influential, and successful. This African led initiative is supported by Kenya’s First Lady, Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta as patron. The campaign has already mobilized the public in Kenya and driven legal reforms in Kenya and East Africa. WLD partners with civil society, government agencies and is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative on elephants.
Contact Paula@wildlifedirect.org

U.S. Ivory Crush Should Be Just a First Step

Bryan Christy, National Geographic
November 12, 2013

This Thursday, the United States government will destroy nearly six tons of ivory, which represents a good portion of the ivory the U.S. has seized since the late 1980s, when a national ban on commercial African ivory imports went into effect.

It will be a symbolic act. But symbolism matters.

Ivory destruction ceremonies have been a litmus test for where a country stands on the ivory trade ever since Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi torched 13 tons of ivory in 1989, setting the stage for a vote to ban international trade in ivory by parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

That ban went into effect in 1990. Six months later, the U.S. ivory market collapsed.

With no international market, it might have been reasonable for all CITES parties to destroy their ivory stocks after the 1990 international ivory ban took effect.

But the ban did not last. In 1999 and again in 2008 parties to CITES voted to allow ivory sales.

The first sale was of 55 tons to Japan and the second, of 115 tons to Japan and China.  In the wake of the China sale, elephant poaching and ivory trafficking have boomed. So has the need for international action.

Last year, Gabon burned 4.8 tons of ivory. Earlier this year the Philippines became the first non-African country to destroy its ivory stocks when it crushed five tons of ivory.

Each was an act by a relatively poor country sacrificing a potential asset for principles that go beyond money. “The Philippines will not be a party to this massacre, and we refuse to be a conduit to this cycle of killing,” Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje said last summer, when his country crushed its ivory.

But not all ivory destructions are alike.

One of the most amazing things about the African elephant is its ability, despite its immense size, to blend in with its surroundings. Just meters away, even seasoned scouts can overlook an elephant.

So, too, does the language surrounding the elephant’s protection easily conceal the size and nature of the ivory trafficking problem.

The United States banned the import and export of African ivory in 1989 but it did not ban its domestic sale. So ivory continues to be openly available for sale in luxury shops just off Madison Avenue in New York City, just as it is in San Francisco and other American cities. (See pictures of the ivory trade around the world.)

As recently demonstrated by criminal cases in New York and Philadelphia, America’s legal ivory market has offered an incentive for ivory smugglers.

In 2012, New York state announced guilty pleas by two ivory dealers. In 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) agents raided the African art store of Philadelphia African art dealer Victor Gordon, seizing an estimated ton of ivory from his facilities and his customers. (According to USFWS officials, Gordon’s ivory is considered evidence and is not part of the ivory to be destroyed this week.)

But it would be a mistake to think ivory trafficking to the United States compares in any meaningful way to ivory smuggling to China.

U.S. Customs and USFWS inspectors are among the most respected border patrollers in the world and have only interdicted a total of six or so tons of ivory since 1989.

It’s not been surprising to find that amount of ivory in a single illegal shipment or two bound for China. In 2011 alone, 46.5 tons of illegal ivory were seized, much of it headed for China.

In choosing to destroy its national ivory stock a quarter century ago, Kenya took a big risk. Its ivory burn put that country in conflict with its southern neighbors who wanted to expand the ivory trade, and it cost Kenya a lot of potential revenue.

But Kenya made a calculation that tourism for live elephants was more valuable than trinkets from dead ones. In destroying its ivory stocks this week, the United States has much less at stake than Kenya did in 1989, or even than Gabon or the Philippines did more recently.

“We hope this is only the beginning and as a next step the U.S. bans its domestic ivory trade,” said Paula Kahumbu, director of Kenya-based Wildlife Direct. “Every single thing that demonstrates individual or national responsibility is a step in the right direction.”

When it comes to today’s ivory trade, one important resource the United States has that other countries don’t is its economic relationship with China. Unlike the U.S., China’s government seeks to expand its domestic ivory trade and to import more ivory from Africa.

Law enforcement in Asia and Africa is inadequate to stop ivory trafficking syndicates. So calling upon China and other countries to ban the domestic sale of ivory and to join the U.S. would be an even more meaningful expenditure of American political capital.

Let us put stop to ivory trade now (Kenya)

By Issac Kalua, Standard Digital

September 23nd 2013

NAIROBI, KENYA: We are now witnessing accelerated demise for elephants, not to the ultimate call of nature but to poaching, the ultimate call of greed. For instance, over the last 10 years, Zakouma National Park in Chad has lost at least 90 percent of its elephants.

Just last year in 2012, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 29 rhinos to poaching. This year, we have lost 190 elephants and 34 rhinos.

The situation was worse last year in Cameroon when heavily armed poachers entered the Bouba N’Djida National Park in northern Cameroon killing over 450 elephants. Tragic as this was, it was even more heartbreaking between 1979 and 1989 when half of Africa’s elephants were killed for their ivory! Totally unconscionable and unpardonable.

These are not just statistical numbers. They are gigantic elephants that once roamed in colossal grace but are now falling under immense onslaught.

They are mostly felled for their ivory, which fetches anywhere from Sh85,000 to Sh425,000 per kilo. Although ivory trade was banned in 1989, this hasn’t stopped poachers and their clients from conspiring to kill elephants because of the ivories that dangle from their gentle faces.

In 1989, the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) stopped right in front of poachers and gave a clear, legal and global command – STOP! CITES moved elephants from Appendix II to Appendix I, in effect banning all international trade in elephants and their parts and derivatives.

But despite this commendable action, ivory is still finding its way from Africa to Asia and other parts of the world with alarming regularity.

In Asia, people associate elephant ivory with good luck and high class. This is bad luck for the elephants because Asia has two of the world’s most populous nations in China and India.

What then can we do about this totally tragic poaching of elephants? The first thing is to know what is happening to elephants and why it is happening. This letter has already shed some light into that. The second thing is to act on our knowledge.

If you are sitting on a railway line and you know that a train is hurtling towards the very spot where you are sitting, you better act on your knowledge and jump out of the railway or you will be crushed to death.

Now that we know that poaching is racing towards elephants, we better act on this knowledge or the elephants will be poached into extinction territory.

The foremost action must come from the thousands of ivory customers in Asia. They must STOP buying ivory. We respect any cultural attachment that they may have to ivory but we abhor the grisly slaughter of elephants that seeks to quench this ivory thirst.

Our message to these ivory customers is this, “ivory may grant you tickets into the high class of your societies, but ivory purchases also leave you with the indelible stain of elephant blood”.

In the same vein, “ivory may leave you with a feeling of good luck, but ivory purchases also leave you with the indelible stain of elephant blood.’ China accounts for at least 50 percent of global ivory consumption and must take action to stop ivory trade”.

Action must also come from African governments through elephant-friendly legislations and full implementation of the said legislation. Kenya government’s new bill – the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill – provides holistic solutions that will go a long way in curbing poaching if implemented. But more must be done.

Radical times call for radical solutions. Maybe the army should be engaged in combating poachers so that the very thought of poaching brings shivers down the spines of potential poachers.

However, such government action can only gain traction through spirited civil society and private sector action. Kenyans like Dr Paula Kahumbu the Executive Director of the Kenya Land Conservation Trust and WildlifeDirect are spearheading efforts to conserve elephants and wildlife as a whole.

At my organization the Green Africa Foundation, we are working on Green Africa Villages that facilitate conservation and empowerment at the grassroots level. A Facebook group known as Kenyans for Wildlife is also playing its role in this conservation journey.

Indeed, the more Africans tread down the sustainable conservation path, the more they will embrace the economic empowerment that comes from natural capital.

Let’s keep our elephants alive and kicking as we kick out poaching.