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.