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Rhino poachers charged

Date Published: 04 Jan, 2010
Rhino poachers charged

Guilty as charged: Some of the arrested poachers caught with two rhino horns.They were set to appear in a Nairobi court.

12 poachers  caught in possession of two rhino horns weighing a total of 7.2 Kgs , appeared in a Nairobi court  on  January 4, 2010.

The 12 had been arrested by KWS security teams  on Sunday, January 3, 2010, following a major operation after a December 28, 2009 poaching incident of a ten-year old female rhino at the Mugie Rhino Sanctuary in Laikipia West District.

Part of the purchase money totalling Ksh. 647,000.00 was recovered in one of the suspect’s residence at Luonyek Trading Center, Baringo East.

KWS Director, Julius Kipng’etich addressing members of the press, commended the operation terming it a major breakthrough in unravelling the poachers syndicate.

Mr. Kipng’etich also reiterated on KWS commitment to protect the country’s wildlife.

“Taking care of Kenya’s wildlife is a deadly affair but we have reinforced our capacity”. Said the KWS Director. “We are also going to increase our ranger force” 

About Kenya Rhino

The Kenya black rhino population now stands at 600 animals, while white rhinos are slightly above 300 animals.  Before the rampant poaching of rhinos in the 1970s Kenya had about 20,000 black rhinos but poaching reduced the numbers to less than 300 animals by mid 1980s. 

The Kenyan rhino population is distributed in the sanctuaries within the national parks and reserves and in privately managed rhino sanctuaries across the country. Mugie rhino sanctuary which is home to 24 black rhino and 1 white rhino is one the most recent victims of the increasing spate of rhino poaching in the private sanctuaries.

Poaching in Kenya hit the critical 1% of the rhino population in 2009 for the first time in 25 years. This was the highest illegal rhino killings recorded in recent times.   Twelve black rhinos (2% of Kenya black rhino population) and six white rhinos (1.5%) of Kenya Southern white rhinos were illegally killed last year. Most of the poaching incidents were recorded in the private ranches where a total of thirteen rhinos were poached as follows: Mugie Ranch - 3, Laikipia nature Conservancy – 3, Solio Ranch 5, Ol Pejeta - 1and Lewa conservancy - 1. The rhino poaching gangs are armed with high caliber semi – automatic weapons.

The rising price for black-market rhino horn is the most likely reason for the increased poaching.    South Africa and Zimbabwe have similarly been affected by this rampant global rhino poaching. In 2009, the two nations lost more than 250 rhinos, and the poaching is escalating.

 The illegal trade is being driven by Asian demand for rhinoceros horns.  Rhino horn has been used in traditional Asian medicines for thousands of years where together with other concoctions it is prescribed for fevers, convulsions and as an aphrodisiac.  However scientific studies have found no medicinal properties in the rhino horn.  The horn is made of keratin, the same type of protein that makes up human hair and fingernails.  The horns are also prized as dagger handles in Yemen and Oman.

Concerted action at the highest level is needed to stop this global crisis of rampant rhino poaching.  Kenya calls upon the countries of concern to come to CITES COP 15 in March in Doha, Qatar with specific actions they have undertaken to show their commitment to stopping this poaching and protecting rhinos in the wild.  Kenya on its part has heightened rhino protection and in a number of cases, the poachers have been arrested and horns intercepted before leaving the country.  Kenya has also proposed amendments to a CITES resolution on rhinos, with the aim of strengthening the resolution and placing greater responsibility on countries consuming rhino horns. 

Currently Kenya aims to conserve at least 700 black rhinos in the wild by 2011 with a long term vision of at least 2000 animals in the wild.  With continued commitment and concerted security and scientific efforts, this vision will be achieved in 25 to 30 years.  Globally black rhinos are estimated at 4,200, white rhinos are 17,500; while all Asian rhinos total approximately 2800.

KWS director displaying the illegal rhino to the press

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