Kenya’s wildlife protectors scoop top honors in Geneva


Abdi Rizack, The Star

Date Published

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Former director of Parks and Reserves for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Julius Kariuki Kimani and Julius Maluki Mwandai were on Wednesday honored for their efforts in fighting wildlife crime and mentorship roles.

The two were recognized with the Clark R. Bavin Wildlife Law Enforcement Award on the sidelines of the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) in the ongoing Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 

Kariuki was honored posthumously for his decades of service improving inter-agency efforts to fight wildlife crime, raising awareness within Kenya’s judiciary about the importance of wildlife protection, and enhancing intelligence to identify wildlife criminals and gangs. 

According to a report released in Geneva, Switzerland on Wednesday, the deceased began his career as an assistant warden with the Wildlife Conservation and Management Department in Kenya (the predecessor of KWS) and rose through the ranks to become director of parks and reserves.

He was pivotal in securing the integrity of parks and their ecosystems in Kenya by improving industry governance and strengthening law enforcement linkages to enhance conservation. 

On his part, Julius Maluki Mwandai, senior assistant director and head of investigations for the Kenya Wildlife Service, was honoured for mentoring thousands of wildlife law enforcement officers in Kenya and across Africa.

For decades, Julius has worked to transform the KWS paramilitary school into a distinguished regional wildlife law enforcement training institution and demonstrating exemplary leadership in dramatically reducing rhino and elephant poaching in Kenya.

Elephant poaching numbers in the country decreased from 384 in 2012 to 40 in 2018, and rhino poaching numbers decreased from 30 to four during the same period.

In addition, nearly 10,000 wildlife criminals were arrested.

Speaking during the convention while presenting the awards, DJ Schubert, wildlife biologist for Animal Welfare Institute said: “The world’s wildlife are under threat like never before from criminal syndicates, poachers and others who don’t hesitate to kill and capture wildlife out of greed and callousness, without consideration for the harm they cause to ecological function and biodiversity,” explained Schubert. 

“Anyone who cherishes our wildlife heritage owes a debt of gratitude to those honoured here today.”

The award is named after the late chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement.

Bavin substantially elevated the fight against wildlife crime in the United States and internationally, pioneering the use of covert investigations and sting operations to expose illegal wildlife trade and advocating for the use of forensic science to identify and prosecute wildlife criminals.