ELEPHANTS could be extinct in the near future if poaching is not contained, conservationists have said. Wildlifedirect CEO Paula Kahumbu yesterday said the escalating trend of elephant poaching in the country is worrying and urged the government to intensify their security.
“We are seeing a trend where elephants could be extinct in the near future,” Kahumbu said. She was speaking during the launch of “Hands off our elephants” campaign in a Nairobi hotel.
This comes hours after former US defence attaché in Nairobi David McNevin was convicted of smuggling ivory. McNevin was arrested late last month at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport with 21 pieces of carved elephant tusks as he boarded a flight to the Netherlands.
Kahumbu said such cases will end when relevant authorities and Kenyans unite to fight poaching. Paula, who is spearheading the campaign to sensitive Kenyans on the importance of protecting elephants, said it is worrying that poachers are driving the animals to extinction.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu said the government is committed to ending the poaching menace.
Speaking during the event, Wakhungu said the ministry will introduce scanners and sniffer dogs in all border points, especially in Mombasa.
She said the Wildlife Bill, which advocates for hefty penalties, has been printed and is ready to be tabled in Parliament. “Poaching will become an economic crime once the Bill is passed,” she said.
Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni said the air carrier will not allow any of its plane to ferry ivory. “We will not tolerate any worker found colluding with ivory smugglers,” he said.
“The economy of this country depends on tourism and it will be suicidal if we allow poaching to continue.” Vision 2030 director Mugo Kibati said their aim is to increase number of tourists to three million by 2017.
“Many tourists come to see the elephants. If they are all poached, tourists will not come here anymore,” he said. Kenya Wildlife Service director William Kiprono said they will employ an additional 1,000 rangers to help fight poaching.
He said KWS is working with all security organs to curb the menace. “These poachers are not from the sky. They are in our midst,” he said. “We need information from the public.” Kiprono said Kenya has remained a transit point because of weak laws.
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