Kenya lost over 100 rhinos to poachers in the last three years, raising fears that the country’s total number of 1,000 rhinos could be wiped out, a government official said Wednesday.
Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu said illegal wildlife trade presented a serious threat to the survival and conservation of many endangered species.
Wakhungu said that effective prosecution was hampered by lack of concrete expert evidence that could link a poacher to a confiscated wildlife product.
“In order to combat wildlife crime, we have strengthened policies and legal frameworks, increased law enforcement capacity, and developed effective judicial systems,” Xinhua news agency quoted her as saying.
Judi Wakhungu was speaking in Naivasha, northwest of Nairobi, after officially opening a workshop on scene of crime trainers drawn from various countries in the continent.
Wakhungu said the country was developing and implementing regional wildlife enforcement strategies and networks that were interconnected through a global coordinating mechanism.
Her remarks come amid reports that cases of poaching targeting elephants and rhinos were on the rise worldwide, with South Africa losing 1,000 rhinos in the past three years.
Wildlife crime and related illegal trade is now globally ranked as one of the most serious international crimes.
Recent reports from wildlife conservationists indicated that proceeds of wildlife crime are also used to finance other international crimes including proliferation of illegal firearms, human trafficking and terrorism cartels, of which no country or agency can single-handedly manage.
Acting Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director General William Kiprono said international crime targeting wildlife products was worth $19 billion. He identified the port of Mombasa in Kenya and Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania as the major points of exit for wildlife products in the region.
Kiprono said the KWS had already constructed its forensic laboratory, adding that they were ready to assist neighbouring countries.
Rampant poaching of rhinos and elephants also forced Nairobi to revise its laws to give stiffer penalties for poachers and other wildlife offenders, saying that the legal regime has to discourage people from dealing with species that are threatened with extinction.
Kenya’s tourism industry depends on its wildlife resources and beach destinations, and conservationists have blamed the continued poaching on the ready markets for the criminal networks that harvest the merchandise.(IANS)