Illegal trade in ivory rising, says CS Judi Wakhungu (Kenya)


ANTONY GITONGA, Standard Digital News

Date Published
NAIVASHA: International poaching has been on the rise, Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu has said. Speaking Wednesday in Naivasha, Prof Wakhungu said the most affected animals are rhinos and elephants because of the increased demand for ivory especially in China. The CS noted that Kenya hast lost over 100 rhinoceros with South Africa losing over 1,000 rhinos between 2012 and 2013. “The population of rhinoceros in Kenya barely exceeds 1,000 and this trend is worrying as the remaining population cannot withstand the elevated poaching,” she said. The CS said illegal wildlife trade presented a serious threat to the survival and conservation of many endangered species. She noted that effective prosecution was hampered by lack of concrete expert evidence that could link a poacher to a confiscated wildlife product. “In order to combat wildlife crime, we have strengthened policies and legal framework, increased law enforcement capacity, and developed effective judicial systems,” she said. Wakhungu said the country is developing and implementing regional wildlife enforcement strategies and interconnected networks through a global coordinating mechanism. The CS was speaking at the Kenya Wildlife Service at a workshop on Scene of Crime Trainers drawn from various countries in the continent. KWS acting Director General William Kiprono said the international crime targeting wildlife products is worth USD19 billion. EXIT POINTS He identified the Port of Mombasa and the Dar es Salaam Port as the major points of exit for wildlife products in the region.
Dr Kiprono said Thailand and China were the leading consumers of the products adding that KWS had scaled up its fight against poaching. “Botswana and Tanzania are leading in the number of elephants and Kenya is committed to regaining its position,” he said. He revealed that KWS has constructed a forensic laboratory to help in the identification of those behind the illegal trade in ivory adding that the institution is ready to assist the neighbouring countries. Conservation Secretary Gideon Gathara said cases of poaching in the country have declined since last year, thanks to concerted efforts from KWS. “A few months ago, our elephants and rhinos were in danger but we are glad that we are addressing this,” he said.