The Kenyan and US government have signed a long-term MoU that will aid the country’s wildlife service to minimise poaching and illegal logging by improving security surveillance at ports of entry and purchase better surveillance equipment.
The Memorandum of Understanding on National Conservation and Management between the US Department of Interior and USAID, and Kenya’s Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, fosters improved technology, training wildlife rangers and information sharing as the best tools to counter the menace.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu on Monday said “What our MoU does, and which can have an effect on illegal trafficking and trade is surveillance; better surveillance at our ports of exit and ports of entry.”
US Interior Secretary Sally Jewell after the signing ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) Headquarters in Nairobi, observed that quality surveillance is effective in curtailing such vices.
She said: “Land cover and satellite imagery is very helpful when it comes to illegal logging for whatever purposes whether it is for a lumber or charcoal.”
Additionally, the agreement is expected to boost the operations of the forensic laboratory at the Kenya Wildlife Service, built last year at a cost of Sh14 million ($140, 000), to provide genetic testing of confiscated trophy.
The lab is equipped with testing instruments worth Sh48.6 million ($486,000) funded by Canadian Global Peace Fund, Qiegen Germany, WWF and KWS.
The USAID had announced in August a $4.6 million (Sh460 million) programme to combat trafficking in poached trophy.
Kenya amended its anti-poaching laws in 2014 to toughen punishment and the establishment of the forensic lab--which KWS says has facilitated in the prosecution of two poachers.
President Barrack Obama, during his visit in Nairobi on July 2015, announced that his government will take “urgently needed steps” to restrict sale of ivory from African elephants. It was part of his Executive Order in 2013 to combat poaching and trafficking of wildlife.
Equally, US Ambassador Robert Godec supported the progress because “Kenya is a critical battleground” against poaching.
USAID has already sponsored Kenyan forensic investigators to get training on molecular lab technology and indicated that “the MoU will last until either country chooses to disband it, so it is in perpetuity unless Kenya says ‘we don’t want it anymore’ and the US says that.”
There are an estimated 1,030 rhinos and some 38,000 elephants left in Kenya today, but conservationists have warned poaching could wipe the endangered species out within a decade if the vice is unchecked.
It is compounded by poor security checks at ports of entry which allows poachers to send trophy abroad through Kenya.