In a surprise, but welcome move, the Kenyan Government has appointed the ex-Director General of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) as its new Chairman.
The appointment was announced by the Kenyan Government in a government notice that listed 200 appointments to other Kenyan Government organizations.
Mr. Leakey gained world recognition in the 1980’s when as Director General of the KWS, he instituted a shoot-to-kill policy that helped stem the high levels of poaching of Kenya’s wildlife at the time.
Mr. Leakey has had a challenging relationship with the Kenyan Government as a result of his outspoken criticism of the current poaching crisis. In a speech last year, Mr. Leakey said “that poachers had an extraordinary level of international criminal backing effectively operating with outrageous impunity, killing our elephants and rhinos at levels that will make them extinct within the country.”
Kenya has been facing an increased level of poaching. In March of this year, Seven elephants were poached in Tsavo. This was followed by the poaching of two Rhinos at the Ol Jogi Ranch in Liakipia in Central Kenya, making March one of the worst months for poaching in Kenya.
Mr. Leakey will have his in-tray full on his first day. In July of last year, a Kenyan Government sponsored report said that in it’s present form the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) was too top heavy and had experienced a “loss of motivation and morale in the field.”
The report was issued in the same week as a further four rhinos were poached at the private Ol Jogi ranch near Nanyuki.
The report was prepared by the task force on wildlife security, which was originally formed in December 2013 ago by the Kenyan Government, and led by Ambassador Nehemiah Rotich.
According to the report, KWS has become a top heavy organization that is in need of urgent reform. The report stated that “The core business of KWS has become shrouded with confusion leading to a drop in effectiveness and delivery and loss of motivation and morale in the field.”
The report recommended 289 reforms that included reducing the current 65 senior staff to six directors, sending more KWS staff into the field, and being involved more robustly with private conservancies, where the report maintains the majority of poaching is occurring, and where KWS has a limited presence on the ground. The report further recommended that KWS’ intelligence unit be upgraded to be more effective.
Mr. Leakey’s appointment comes at a critical time for Kenya’s wildlife. Earlier today officials in Thailand said that they had intercepted a cargo of over three tonnes of elephant ivory that had been shipped from Kenya illustrating just how out of control the current situation has become.
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