Tag Archives: KWS

The human cost of the demand for ivory (Kenya)

Sarah Morrison, The Independent

December 19, 2013

Every time Lemayan Lelesiit spots an aircraft in the sky, he asks his mother if his dad is nearby. Her answer, she says, breaks her heart each time.

Lemayan, who turns two next month, will never get to meet his father. The former ranger and pilot, Moses Lelesiit, died two years ago when his aircraft came crashing down. He was taking part in an aerial patrol of one of Kenya’s protected conservation areas. He died while trying to defend its elephants and rhinos from the poachers’ guns. He was 41.

Young Lemayan’s story is anything but rare. Scores of families gathered yesterday in Nairobi to commemorate those who had lost their lives in the fight to protect their country’s wildlife. Demand for ivory does not cost just the lives of 100 elephants per day across Africa; across the continent some 1,000 rangers have died in the conflict during the past decade.

In Kenya, they are known simply as “the heroes”. Sixty names adorn a monument in the capital representing all those who have died in the conservation battle since the 1970s. They are mostly men – fathers, sons and brothers – who died while trying to stop poachers from driving Africa’s wildlife to extinction. They almost all left families behind.

Moses’s widow, Habiba, was pregnant with Lemayan when she found out her husband had died. She lost the only breadwinner in her family. She lives in Maralal, a small market town in northern Kenya, and has two other children, aged eight and 13, to support.

“I didn’t believe it when I was told. He was the one who provided everything,” she told The Independent. “Every time my son sees a plane, or a man in uniform, he asks me if his dad is near. Each time, I have to tell him: ‘No, you do not have a father.’ Who could leave a small boy to grow up without a dad? They are very bad.”

She is talking about the poachers who are wreaking havoc across Africa. It is estimated that 20 per cent of Africa’s elephants could be killed in the next decade if poaching continues at the current rate.

Catherine Kalunde Mutua, 30, lost  her father – a ranger – when she was just eight years old. He was shot by bandits while out in the field. “Life was very hard. We were left with our mother, who was not working. We were poor and could only send one brother to secondary school.” Her brother, Arbanus, was given around 67,000 Kenyan shillings, or about £475, in compensation, but the money will never bring loved ones back. “If I had the chance to be a ranger, I would destroy all the poachers,” Arbanus said.

Aggrey Maumo, an assistant director for the mountain conservation area of the Kenya Wildlife Service, knows all about the danger waiting for rangers on the ground. Maumo was with a ranger earlier this year as poachers shot him down. He was 29. “It was very bad. He was shot when I was there. He was the breadwinner of the family.”

He added that he had lost about 70 elephants in his area this year – around 90 per cent as a result of poaching. “We must engage the international community. We must tell them it’s dangerous – that people are losing their lives.” As for those on the front line, he is adamant they are not forgotten. “We must remember these fallen heroes – they died in the line of duty.”

Kenya: Six Jumbos Killed in Kajiado

By Kurgat Marindany, The Star

2 October 2013

At least six elephants have been killed by poachers in three community conservancies in Kajiado West constituency in less than two months.

Residents are now appealing to Kenya Wildlife Service to increase surveillance in Loita, Olkiramatian and Shompole where poachers are targeting.

The Olkiramatian Conservation Project secretary, Joseph Sirai, told the Star that he counted six elephant carcasses in Loita conservancy alone that had no tusks.

He said the poachers are now using poisoned arrows rather than guns which are killing a mature elephant in less than five seconds. He said when the poisoned arrows make an elephant rot in less than two minutes and makes it easy for the tusks to be hacked off.

“This is a new tactic that is very dangerous. The arrows do not make any noise like guns,” Sirai said. KWS spokesman Paul Mbugua said there is an upsurge of poaching in Loita. He said many poachers come from Tanzania.

“We are aware of the poaching and have increased the number of rangers. The challenge however is arresting the suspects as they flee to Tanzania and it is difficult for us to trace them,” he said. Mbugua said poachers are a threat to tourism. “Sampu and Shompole lodges are likely to close down if the number of the visitors goes down.”

Article at the following link:

Kenya: KWS Kill Three Suspected Poachers in Tsavo

By Joseph Muraya, Capital FM

9 September 2013

Nairobi — This happened after they defied orders to surrender and instead fired at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers who had laid an ambush. One of the suspects is believed to have escaped with injuries according to the KWS officials.

KWS communication manager Paul Udoto says that rangers had laid an ambush for the last 10 days in the park when they encountered the poachers.

A rifle with six rounds of ammunition among other assorted equipments was recovered from the suspects.

Other items included two machetes, a knife, two pieces of assorted poison, an axe, two mobile phones, a leather bag, some food and water.

Police officers from Mtito Andei police station have visited the scene of crime to conduct further investigations.

The government is faced with a major challenge of poaching mainly targeting elephants and Rhinos, sparking fears of a possible extinction in the near future.

Last week (September 6) KWS successfully translocated 21 rhinos from Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy to the newly established Borana Rhino sanctuary in Laikipia.

Ten rhinos were moved from Lake Nakuru National Park while the other 11 were translocated from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

KWS spokesperson Paul Muya says the translocation is aimed at establishing a new rhino population and keeping the established populations in Lake Nakuru National Park and Lewa Wildlife Conservancy productive by maintaining their numbers below their ecological carrying capacity levels.

“We want to establish a viable stock of the recommended number by the International Union for Conservation of Nature of up to 21 rhinos,” he said.

Muya noted that the number of rhinos breeding at the Lake Nakuru National Park had increased enormously creating concerns that it may lead to a food crisis for other wildlife at the park.

“We have currently 140 rhinos in the park,” he revealed.

“Black rhinos have steadily increased within the sanctuaries necessitating removals to avoid negative density dependent effects. However, many established sanctuaries still remain overstocked hence new secure habitats are required.”

The current Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya 2012-2016 sets targets on restocking former free ranging areas which can support large populations, as well as the creation of Intensive Protection Zones (IPZ) and secure sanctuaries in order to achieve its strategic objective of population expansion to reach a confirmed total of 750 black rhinos by end of 2016.

Article at the following link:

KWS accuses the rich of poaching (Kenya)

RAPHAEL MWADIME, The Star

September 6, 2013
Kenya Wildlife Services has linked influential business people to the illegal ivory trade in the country.

KWS spokesperson Paul Mbugua told the Star during an interview that the recent seizure of 3.3 tonnes of illegal ivory in Mombasa shows the trade involves wealthy people.

“Through our intelligence officers, we have managed to unravel a network of people involved in the illegal ivory trade in the country,” Mbugua said.

He said most of smuggled ivories are seized at the port and no one turns up to claim them. “We cannot reveal the names of those involved in this illegal business,” Mbugua said.

He said ivory and horns from elephant’s and rhinos are shipped out using illegal routes along the porous Kenyan border. “The ivory consignments we have intercepted at our airports and the Mombasa port are usually on transit,” he said.

Mbugua said most border points across the country are porous and boda bodas are used to ferry smuggled goods. Mbugua defended Chinese working in construction companies in the country against claims that they have promoted poaching.

He said most poachers are Kenyans. “No foreigner has so far been arrested,” he said. Kenya has lost 214 elephant’s and 36 rhinos to poachers this year.

Kenya Wildlife Services has linked big influential business people from Western African countries to the Illegal ivory trade in the country.

KWS spokesperson Paul Mbugua revealed to the Star during an interview that preliminary investigation have revealed a network of business people from West African Countries involved in the illegal trade.

Mbugua cited the recent seizure of 3.3 tonnes of illegal ivory at Mombasa as an indication that the trade involves big moneyed people.

“Through our intelligence officers we have managed to unravel a network of people involved in the illegal ivory trade in the country. Some are foreigners from West African Countries who do business in the country,” said Mbugua adding that most of the seizures made at the port, the owners have never went back to claim their goods which area worth billions of shillings thus concluding that those involved in the business are stinking rich people.

When asked whether Kenyan Politicians are involved in the illegal trade, Mbugua said that those involved in the trade are rich people and soon they will zero on them.

“We cannot reveal the names of those involved in this illegal business at this time. However, we have managed to unravel the mystery of those involved in the illegal trade,” he said.

The KWS Spokesperson said that ivory and horns from elephant’s and Rhinos poached across the country are shipped out using illegal routes along the porous Kenyan border points without necessarily using airports and the Mombasa port.

“The ivory consignments we have intercepted at our airports and the Mombasa port are usually on transit. This shows that the elephants tusks and Rhino horns poached in the country are ferried using illegal routes along the porous border points,” he said.

Mbugua pointed out that most border points across the country are porous adding that bodaboda taxis are the most notorious for ferrying illegal goods.

“Our border points are very porous. Bodaboda taxis are notorious for ferrying illegal goods including wildlife products outside the country,” he said.

Mbugua distanced Chinese citizens working in construction companies in the country against the escalating elephant and Rhino poaching in the country.

“We have arrested 10 Chinese citizens in the country involved in contraband ivory and all of them were on transit. We have also nabbed seven Vietnamese, one American, one Tanzanian and one American but were all on transit,” he said.

Mbugua said that those involved in poaching are mostly local citizens. “Those people we have arrested involved in poaching are mostly local citizens. No foreigners have so far been arrested,” he said.

So far, Kenya has lost 214 elephant’s and 36 rhinos to poaching this year.

Kenya urges world to impose moratorium on ivory trading to save wildlife

Kenya urges world to impose moratorium on ivory trading to save wildlife
CCTV.com

September 6, 2013

NAIROBI, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) — Kenya’s first lady Margaret Kenyatta on Thursday called on the international community to place a moratorium on ivory trading in order to save the elephant from extinction.

Margaret who has launched an anti-poaching campaign dubbed “Hands off our Elephants,” whose main objective is to educate Kenyans and the world on the need to conserve the elephant for posterity also called on the world to help Nairobi save her elephants.

“To address the problem of poaching there requires global action and we ask our friends especially those where ivory is in demand and where domestic ivory markets exist to help us,” she said at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi.

Kenya lost 289 elephants to poaching in 2011 and another 384 elephants in 2012. Lion is also one of the most endangered animals not only in Kenya but across Africa, according to statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

The first lady, who also adopted a baby elephant, said poaching was not only a conservation problem but also affects Kenya’s economic stability, prosperity and security.

She stressed that elephants are also a major tourist attraction to Kenya, saying the government earns revenues totaling to 1.34 billion U. S. dollars annually.

Ivory trade threatened over 300,000 jobs in the country with millions of other direct and indirect beneficiaries from tourism being affected, according to the Kenyan first lady.

Margaret said there is need for the global community especially countries where demand and markets for ivory exist to take a frontline position in the war against poaching and ivory trade.

Protecting Kenya’s 38,000 elephant herd is both an ecological and economic imperative. Kenya has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days.

The KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009. The demand for ivory in the Far East has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand.

Margaret said the campaign was important because elephants are a major attraction to international and domestic tourism noting that the world would be unimaginable without elephants.

“Elephants are a major attraction for international and domestic tourists. Protecting elephants requires large amounts of space, which means many other species benefit,” she said.

Margaret said the campaign has received overwhelming support from the media and other stakeholders and expressed hope that it would succeed in eradicating poaching not only in Kenya and Africa at large.

Article at the following link:

Kenya: Jumbos Saved From ‘Feast’

By Wambugu Kanyi, The Star

31 August 2013

Residents preparing to “feast” on two elephants went home an angry lot after Kenya Wildlife Service rangers stopped them from killing the animals.

The elephants had strayed from Mt Kenya Forest and were heading to Aberdare Forest.On their way their went into Kinga Conservation and Camp Site in Watuka area on Thursday.

Charles Murage, a residents, said he woke up in the morning only to meet the two animals in the camp site He said the site used to be a corridor for animals many years ago and is seems they have returned.

Rangers spent the whole day scaring the elephants away by shooting in the air.The KWS was looking into ways of returning them to the forest.

Article at the following link:

Kenya: Two Held With Six Elephant Tusks

By Alloys Musyoka, The Star

26 August 2013

TWO suspected poachers were arrested by Kenya Wildlife Service officers at Mkongani in Kwale with 17 kilograms of elephant tusks worth Sh600,000 on Friday. Samai Hamisi and Masoud Josa are said to be among other poachers who have been on the run, evading KWS officers’ traps.

KWS deputy director for community affairs in Kwale, Dadley Tsiganyiu, said the two were arrested after members of the public tipped them. Addressing journalists in his office on Friday, Tsiganyiu said Hamisi and Josa were arrested with six elephant tusks.

They are said to have been looking for market for the tusks. “The two have been playing hide and seek with our officers and are dangerous because they are among other groups of poachers operating in this area,” Tsiganyiu said.

He warned the remaining group of poachers and anyone dealing in the illegal business that they will soon be brought to book. Tsiganyiu said those living around Shimba Hills National Park should co-operate with KWS officers in stemming poaching, which has seen many elephants killed across the country.

Article at the following link:

How rogue Kenya Wildlife Service personnel protect poachers behind wildlife massacre

By Joe Kiarie, The Standard
June 8th 2013

NAIROBI, KENYA: Details of how unscrupulous Kenya Wildlife Service ( KWS) staffers have been colluding with poachers to massacre wildlife in the Tsavo can now be revealed.

The officers find buyers for trophies, steal from stockpiles or help poachers, warn their accomplices about ranger patrols and harass any locals who report crimes.

Poachers get access to the animals by hiding among pastoralist communities allowed to graze in parts of the park. Armed gangs from Somalia and elsewhere are believed to take advantage of the heavy presence of livestock in local ranches and the Tsavo National parks to monitor and hunt down elephants.

Profit Al-Shabaab

The gangs, which have been said to profit Al Shabaab terrorists, enjoy protection from senior KWS officers directly involved in the illegal trade. A fight-back has begun, with tougher penalties on poaching and a massive Government operation to flush out the thousands of herders in the Tsavo Conservation Area. Hundreds of herders and more than 50,000 animals have been moved out of the area in the last one week.

This comes as KWS scrambled to interdict and prosecute wardens suspected of conspiring with criminals in damaging “inside jobs” that have made wildlife protection all but impossible.

Last Saturday, KWS interdicted 10 employees for allegedly colluding with poachers. They included an acting senior warden, a company commander, five platoon commanders and three rangers.

This came barely three months after two senior KWS wardens were charged with stealing more than Sh15.3 million worth of elephant tusks recovered from poachers. The duo appeared before the Mombasa Chief Magistrate on February 28 accused of collecting exhibits from the courtroom and selling them to dealers.

None of those interdicted or charged in court has been found guilty of any offence. Sources within the corporation say the hunt is on for an intricate crime web that they blame for the recent rise in poaching cases.

“There has been a very powerful, untouchable cartel that almost neutralised KWS,” said our source, a long-serving warden who spoke on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“Their network has involved (a chain of people from) officers operating from the headquarters in Nairobi to rangers in the bush, who guide every step poachers make. Every time we have intelligence on the movement of poachers, they impose delaying tactics such as tipping off the criminals, diverting patrol teams and even holding onto patrol vehicles.”

January incident

The source cites an incident in January when an entire family of 12 elephants was killed in Kenya’s worst single recorded loss of the animals. He says rangers on foot patrol who could have caught the poachers were sent in the wrong  direction.

He also points to a recent incident where an informer reported spotting elephant ivory being loaded onto a Mombasa-bound bus at Voi, only for a response team to be deployed to the town eight hours later.

“There have also been multiple cases of stockpiled ivory going missing from the stores with no break-ins reported,” he reveals. Kenya has a stockpile of more than 65 metric tonnes of elephant ivory in the custody of KWS. Julius Kimani, a KWS Senior Assistant Director (intelligence), in charge of the Tsavo Conservation Area, readily admits the existence of ‘secret agents’, who he says have fuelled the poaching menace.

“In a family, all children cannot be the same. We have some rotten eggs,” he says.

“They have been leaking information and alerting poachers on deployments and movement of patrol teams. Considering how vast the area is, this has really hindered anti-poaching efforts.”

Suspicion of inside jobs, he says, has hovered over the service for years. “We have always had reports of inside jobs, but never thought it was true. But it is now coming out as a serious issue,” he says.

While the cartels mainly target elephant tusks, Kimani says investigations into the killing of two rhinos at Tsavo West National Park early this year pointed to insider help.

There are also questions being raised about the killing of seven rhinos last week in what was the bloodiest period for the endangered animal in Kenya in decades.

Kimani says majority of those involved in undermining anti-poaching efforts are technology-savvy junior officers, who connect with illegal ivory dealers online.

“Some are succumbing to the temptation of the big money coming from trophies,” he states. This suspected collusion has not escaped the public eye. Within Kuranze area of Kwale County, residents claim KWS and Administration Police officers either collude with poachers or have no interest in protecting wildlife. They say that locals who report animal killings are victimised.

Evening gunshots

“For years we have been hearing gunshots in the evening and spotting as many as seven elephant carcasses later on,” one person we spoke to said.

“We think this is done by Somali herders under the close eye of supervisors who spend the whole day chewing miraa at Kuranze Shopping Centre. But when we report the cases to the police and KWS, they rarely come here. When they do, they arrest us yet we are innocent. We no longer report any such cases to the authorities.”

Kimani admits KWS has an unhappy relationship the residents of Kuranze.

“I cannot rule out cases of victimisation (by police or KWS),” he says. “We are not very happy with these people. They take up to two days to report poaching. While some are held as suspects, they are usually freed if investigations clear them.” Last year, the KWS arrested 250 poachers in the region, in the process recovering 18 firearms and 450 rounds of ammunition. Tougher penalties, Kimani says, will help fight poaching.“The punishment (before changes in late May was) a fine of not more than Sh40,000,” he quips. “They always plead guilty to the charges and that’s it.” Parliament has approved significant increases in the penalties. Those caught can now expect fines up to Sh10 million, along with jail sentences of 15 years.

Prior to this, fines were capped at Sh40,000 and jail terms at two years. “Kenya’s elephants declined from 160,000 in the 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching,” North Horr MP Chachu Ganya said in debate on the measures.

“Today, Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants and 1,025 rhinos.”

So far this year, poachers have butchered about 21 rhinos and 117 elephants to feed growing demand for animal trophies and parts in Asia’s black market.

The Tsavo is one of the regions that have seen an alarming increase in elephant killings starting last year.

This sparked claims that some KWS officials were trying to undermine the organisation’s new director Dr William Kiprono. To deal with the crisis, Dr Kiprono sent senior staff from Nairobi, like Kimani, into the regions.

Conservationists hope their intervention will help bring an end to the killings and weed out the cartels behind them.

Article at the following link:
http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000085468&story_title=how-rog

Poachers risk Sh5m fine, 15 years jail in plans to protect elephants

POLITICS AND POLICY

Poachers risk Sh5m fine, 15 years jail in plans to protect elephants

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni (left) with Wildlife Direct chairman John Hemingway at the Press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. Photo/Phoebe Okall

Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni (left) with Wildlife Direct chairman John Hemingway at the Press conference in Nairobi on Wednesday. Photo/Phoebe Okall

By WANGUI MAINAPosted  Wednesday, July 24  2013 at  20:42

IN SUMMARY

  • Environment, Water and Natural Resources secretary Judi Wakhungu said poachers would be sent to jail for 15 years and fined Sh5 million.
  • Killing of animals for their trophies has in the past three years seen Kenya lose about 1000 elephants.
  • Currently, poachers incur a fine not exceeding Sh40,000 or a prison term not exceeding ten years, or both.
 Poachers have been put on notice by stiffer penalties proposed in the Wildlife Bill, which is set for introduction in the National Assembly.

Environment, Water and Natural Resources secretary Judi Wakhungu said poachers would be sent to jail for 15 years and fined Sh5 million for illegal killing of wildlife, which will be an economic crime once the Bill is enacted.

“The government has directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes. Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, the penalties and sentences will be punitive in order to discourage poaching and ivory traffickers,” she said.

Killing of animals for their trophies has in the past three years seen Kenya lose about 1000 elephants.

Currently, poachers incur a fine not exceeding Sh40,000 or a prison term not exceeding ten years, or both.

Ms Wakhungu was speaking on Wednesday during the launch of a new anti-poaching campaign dubbed “Hands off our Elephants”, which is fronted by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta.

It has been put together by conservation group Wildlife Direct in partnership with companies such as Kenya Airways and advertising company TBWA.

The launch of the campaign coincided with former US defence attaché in Nairobi David McNevin being convicted of being in possession of ivory products worth thousands of shillings.

Mr McNevin was arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) early this month as he boarded a flight to the Netherlands.

He was in possession of five ivory bangles, seven ivory finger rings, seven ivory pendants and two pieces of worked ivory weighing a total 800 grammes. He was arraigned in court on July 2 where he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of Sh40,000.

During President Barack Obama’s visit to Africa this month, the US pledged $10 million (Sh870 million) to combat ivory trade in Tanzania.

Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010. This year, Kenya has lost 172 elephants and 32 rhinos as increased demand for ivory driven by China prompts criminals.

Kenya has the fourth largest elephant population at about 38,000 and is one of the ‘gang of eight’ countries identified by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) where poaching is rampant.

In March, Cites ordered Kenya to set clear targets for reducing the poaching and the trade in ivory.

The other countries listed for poaching are Tanzania and Uganda while China and Thailand are listed as major consumers. Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, are listed as major transit countries for ivory.

The recent seizure of ivory in different exit points of the country is a sign of efficiency by the country’s law enforcement team, according to KWS. Kenya has been identified as a major transit point of ivory to Asia, where there is high demand.

To curb the movement of ivory the government is looking to deploy modern technology and sniffer dogs from the KWS canine unit, in all major entry and exit points including Eldoret airport.

This article comes from the following link: http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Poachers-risk-Sh5m-fine-and-15-years-jail/-/539546/1925696/-/ho970k/-/index.html

 

 

 

Kenya Airways backs Anti-poaching Campaign

PRESS RELEASE

Kenya Airways backs Anti-poaching Campaign

NAIROBI JULY 24, 2013 – Kenya Airways has joined the ‘Hands Off Our Elephants’ campaign that aims at ending elephants poaching and ivory trafficking through Kenya, as well as eliminating demand for the commodity around the world.

The campaign, which is spearheaded by Kenya’s First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has been put together by WildlifeDirect, a wildlife conservation charity, to create awareness, engagement and mobilization on the issue within Kenya, across Africa and around the world

Kenya Airways’ Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Titus Naikuni, said that conservation of elephants and other wildlife, is the responsibility of all Kenyan individuals, companies and government agencies.

“Elephants are part of our environment; therefore poaching them harms our country and national heritage. Mother Nature is very unforgiving when we change the balance in the environment. This is the reason we decided to get involved. As Kenya Airways, we do not condone poaching or delivery of poached ivory on our flights, and this message has been passed to our staff and passengers. Any of our staff found involved or abetting poaching will face the consequences,” Dr Naikuni added during a press briefing held in Nairobi.

Speaking during the briefing, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu, said that the government is stepping up anti-poaching efforts by deploying modern technology and modernization of the Kenya Wildlife Service; in addition to establishing a Canine Unit to detect movements of illegal ivory at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi and Moi International Airports in Mombasa.

“The government has also directed that all poaching cases be prosecuted as economic crimes, and revised penalties to higher fines of over Ksh1 million and sentences of over 5 years. Once the new Wildlife Bill is enacted, these penalties and sentences will be enhanced to make them punitive and discourage poaching and ivory traffickers,” Prof Wakhungu added.

The director general of the Vision 2030 delivery board, Mugo Kibati, said that elephants are a major factor in the success of the tourism industry, which is one of the major sectors in the economic pillar of Kenya’s Vision 2030.

“In our Medium Term Plan, we have set out to grow tourist numbers from the current 2 million to 3 million by the year 2017. However, this will not happen if our elephants disappear,” Mr Kibati told the press briefing.

In recent days, there has been a surge in cases of poaching, posing a threat to elephants. According to statistics from the Kenya Wildlife Service, elephant poaching has grown consistently over the last three during which 829 elephants were killed. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants to poachers compared to 278 in 2011 and 177 in 2010.

In addition to this, the country has been identified as one of the leading transit routes for smuggling ivory out of Africa, with several incidents of ivory seizures and recovery of wildlife carcasses in recent days. KWS estimates that more than eight tonnes of raw and worked ivory have been seized since 2009.

The demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has attracted criminal cartels to Kenya, who are feeding the insatiable demand. Conservationists warn that unless the demand is extinguished, poachers will wipe out Africa’s elephants.

The CEO of Wildlife Direct, Dr Paula Kahumbu, lauded the government for welcoming the initiative which brings Kenyans together to save the country’s heritage.

“Kenya traditionally has been at the frontline in combating elephant poaching but we have lost that ground in recent years. It is essential that we work together and restore our leadership position in the world to ensuring that we protect our endangered species, and a global heritage. While we crack down on wildlife crime in Kenya, we also need the help of governments of Africa, Thailand, China and US whom we are asking to ban the domestic markets of ivory as legal markets are a cover for laundering illegal ivory. We will also appeal to the hearts of anyone buying ivory in these countries as they are contributing to the slaughter of African elephants,” Dr Kahumbu added.

In February, Kenya Airways signed a deal with Born Free Foundation, an international charity, to contribute towards anti-poaching campaigns and conservation of wildlife conservation in Africa, and partner to raise funds for such initiatives.