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Names of six rangers killed by poachers added to heroes list

Date Published: 17 Dec, 2012
Names of six rangers killed by poachers added to heroes list

Six Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) rangers have been killed by poachers since December last year.

Their names were unveiled on the Conservation Heroes Monument in Nairobi this morning at a solemn occasion presided over by the Minister for Forestry and Wildlife, Hon Dr Noah Wekesa.   

He noted that there was an unprecedented killing of rhinos and elephants and announced that he had formed an inter-agency committee to address the root problems of escalating poaching.

He said: “This problem is not restricted to Kenya; it’s global. The scope and brutality of the illegal trade in ivory has been discussed in the US and the UK.”  

The minister noted that the illegal ivory trade had been linked to bigger global issues of terrorism, illegal firearm, drug peddling and human trafficking.

He called on other agencies at points of exit and entry into Kenya, including Customs, Police and Airlines to support KWS efforts in stamping out illegal trade in wildlife.

The KWS Director, Mr William Kiprono, said a female ranger was killed for the first time in the history of the organisation and pledged to do all he could to prevent a repeat of such.

He also noted that ranger Moses Lesambeki who was recently injured by poachers at Mbale Ranch in Taita Taveta County is still in hospital but was out of danger and would soon be discharged to resume service.

Mr Kiprono said the conservation challenge will never diminish, noting that with the increase in human population, high pricing of wildlife trophies such as the rhino horn and elephant tusks in the black market, pressure on land use, diminishing space for wildlife, climate change, encroachment by invasive species, the destruction of wildlife habitats, and the challenges were expected to increase tremendously.

He said to tackle these challenges effectively called for additional funding and collaboration with other agencies.  

Mr Kiprono said additional rangers had been recruited to beef up security while staff efficiency had been improved through purchase of appropriate tools such as aircrafts, vehicles and firearms.

The KWS Director clarified reports on alleged dramatic declines found in the recent elephant census in the expansive Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem. He said the census conducted on November 25th to 30th, 2012 found a population of 6,365 elephants. Compared to the 2008 census which found 7,415 elephants, this was a decline of 1,050 elephants, representing a 14 per cent drop in

Mr Kiprono said the decline had been caused by various factors, and not just illegal killings as was reported. Out of 1050 elephants lost in the Laikipia-Samburu ecosystem, 458 elephants were illegally killed by poachers. The rest were lost through natural deaths from the prolonged drought of 2009, human wildlife conflict and control measures.

He said: “We must admit that the threat of poaching is real across the country given that we have lost 458 elephants to poachers in four years in that region alone. As a country, every single elephant we lose is painful because wildlife is a key pillar to our tourism sector and the national economy. This situation is not out of hand; it is manageable.”

To address the problems, he said, KWS was seeking support from all corners including other security agencies, the local communities and non governmental organisations. He called upon NGOs and activists to exercise restraint and be honest when disseminating information on elephant populations to avoid misleading statements.   

Mr Kiprono said KWS management looked back at the ending year with pride, listing a number of achievements. ”We have secured more land for conservation, our troops are better equipped, more communities are coming on board, better collaboration in fighting poaching and numbers of endangered species are growing. ”

However, he added, KWS needed more funding to tackle emerging challenges of poaching and human wildlife conflict.   

KWS Board of Trustees chairman, Hon David Mwiraria, said the forensic and genetic laboratory under construction in Nairobi would provide credible evidence to aid the prosecution of wildlife offenders.