Monday, February 11, 2013

Wildlife count on way as poaching rises

PHOTO | COURTESY Kenya Wildlife Service rangers on patrol.

PHOTO | COURTESY Kenya Wildlife Service rangers on patrol. KWS has started using technology in an effort to curb poaching.  NATION MEDIA GROUP | KWS

By DAVE OPIYO [email protected] AND EDITH FORTUNATE [email protected]

The government plans to conduct a major head count of Kenya’s endangered wildlife in the wake of increased poaching in the country.

Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia said the audit will be conducted by a multi-stakeholder team that will also include the private sector.

He said a team comprising members from the intelligence service and the police, and Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers will be set up to patrol all national parks and ensure that the menace is dealt with once and for all. (Editorial: Poaching fines are too light)

“We will also hire and train younger people who are flexible and able to walk. They will work with the special forces to ensure that the poaching menace is tackled,” he added.

Last week, Cabinet gave a clear indication that it will no longer tolerate poaching of the country’s wildlife when it directed that all herders in national parks be immediately flushed out.

The order came barely a day after KWS sent two of its senior managers on compulsory leave as the agency is under increasing pressure to stop the killing of wildlife.

Lions also targeted

Mr Peter Leitoro, the deputy director in charge of security, and Mr Benjamin Kavu, the deputy director in charge of wildlife and community service, were ordered to leave office to pave way for investigations.

KWS data shows an alarming rise in poaching. Last year, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 29 rhinos to poachers, compared to 289 elephants and 25 rhinos in 2011.

Lions and cheetahs have also been targeted by poachers, so have other species such as buffalos and zebras.

On Sunday, Mr Kimemia said they are ready to preserve the country’s heritage and will do all it takes to ensure this.

“If you poach animals, you should also be poached. Why should you be spared? Whatever they are doing to this country is economic sabotage,” said Mr Kimemia.

Last month, the government said it will provide Sh200 million for the fight against poaching.

The funds were requested by KWS last year for procurement of anti-poaching gear.

Mr Kimemia said the money had already been sourced and will be used to purchase vehicles, infrared night vision goggles and ammunition to fight the poachers.

He said that a further 1,000 KWS rangers will also be recruited and equipped with the gear as the government moves to step up the fight against poaching.

Mr Kimemia said poaching tends to be on the rise when the country gears up for a general election.

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