As Kenya prepares to torch the largest Ivory and rhino horn stockpile on Saturday, WildAid Director Peter Knights believes the country’s focus on intelligence-based conservation is appropriate in dealing with kingpins of poaching.
In an interview with Capital FM News, Knight acknowledged that Kenya has an appropriate legislation system in place to deal with wildlife crimes hence the need to depend on intelligence to find market controllers of rhino horns and elephant ivory.
“If we catch the big guys we can really deal with them. But catching them is a little bit difficult and we are moving more to intelligence-based operations rather than patrolling,” he said as the country prepared to set ablaze 105 tonnes of ivory and 1.35 tonnes of rhino horn.
Knights echoed Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General Kitili Mbathi who on Tuesday explained elaborate measures undertaken by the organisation to equip its officers with modern equipment and skills of acting on intelligence reports to deal with poachers and those protecting them.
This, Knight explained, was the best way to weaken the market wildlife products instead of concentrating only on poachers.
In Kenya, poachers earn as little as Sh500 for either rhino horn or elephant ivory.
They are the first culprits who get arrested or even killed while their sponsors usually remain at large or even unknown.
“We know there is limitless supply of poor guys on the ground who are willing to risk everything – it’s the middlemen whom we need to stop,” Knights pointed.
Educating and encouraging the Kenyan masses especially those living near elephants and rhinos to inform KWS whenever they spot smugglers is a strategy that Knights believed will work positively to fight poaching.
On Tuesday, Kitili said the government had increased its budget to KWS to ensure officers were given necessary resources.
According to Knight facilitating them fully will be a major breakthrough to motivate them deal with poaching.
Through WildAid, a conservation organisation, Knights and his team is in Kenya to convince people to get interested in conservation and feel ownership of wildlife.
“We want people to get excited about their wildlife and feel the enthusiasm for protecting those animals. The greatest tragedy we have is that more Kenyans don’t visit our national parks,” he complained.
The Pan African Campaign Under the theme, ‘Poaching Steals from Us’ WildAid will focus on Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa which are all grappling with poaching.