Oiling The Wheels of Justice for Wildlife Crime


Resson Kantai, Projects Officer

Date Published

With demand for ivory surging in the Far East, more and more people are being caught trying to smuggle ivory out of Kenya. Police, the Kenya Wildlife Service, port and customs officials are working hard to stop the criminals in their tracks before they leave the country. Unfortunately most, if not all, of these culprits get off with slap-on-the-wrist penalties. Only last week, Chinese National Tian Yi, was arrested at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and pleaded guilty to possession of 439 pieces of worked ivory weighing 16.6 kg; ivory which might fetch as much as USD$16,000 in China. The Magistrate fined him a paltry KSH.30,000/- which works out to less than USD$350. It is clear that the problem of enforcement is now with the Kenyan courts of law.

Outraged by this and other rulings, Save the Elephants and the Kenya Elephant Forum have been spurred into action. Beginning with a formal appeal to the Chief Justice to overturn this latest ruling, the Forum is launching a series of steps to deal decisively with wildlife crime at the highest level. An audit of all cases involving ivory is being conducted countrywide to gather evidence of precedents set in an effort to reform the way that wildlife crimes are being prosecuted. There is also a ground-swell of support – leading to promises made at the recently concluded CITES meeting – to try these heinous crimes under weightier laws such as The Proceeds of The Prevention of Organized Crime Act (2010), The Anti Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003) and The Prevention of Terrorism Act (2012). All this is being requested as we continue to push for a reform of the Act most relevant to these crimes: The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act.

To bring elephants home to the people who matter, STE will be embarking on a campaign to sensitize magistrates and prosecutors on the gravity of poaching ecologically, economically and culturally. We are also beginning to carefully track all these cases as they appear in courts around STE Samburu Research Camp and Kenya to ensure transparency, and above all that the full force of the law is applied as we endeavour to stamp out poaching in Kenya.