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Kenya Wildlife Service statement on status of wildlife conservation

Date Published: 14 Jun, 2013
Kenya Wildlife Service statement on status of wildlife conservation

KWS Director, William Kiprono, displays a recovered ivory tusk at an earlier press conference on the status of wildlife conservation in the country at the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for honouring our invitation for a press briefing. We shall brief you on our efforts towards wildlife conservation in the country. 

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) family is gathered here in Mombasa to attend the 9th annual Wardens and Scientist meeting. The theme for this year’s conference is “Aligning wildlife conservation to the constitution of Kenya- with an emphasis on devolution”. This gathering has brought together officers who are dedicated to wildlife conservation from across our country. We have gathered to share ideas and experiences on current and emerging challenges as we embrace the spirit of devolution as required by the Constitution.

We have also invited key speakers from Commission on Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), Transition Authority (TA) and National Land Commission (NLC) to offer insight into the process of devolution and how our mandate fits in. Besides, we have planned a beach cleaning activity and blood donation exercise as a way of our giving back to our communities. This is also to thank them for entrusting us with the mandate of wildlife conservation and for collaborating with us.  You are welcome to join us in these important activities.  

 Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the onset, I wish to appreciate the efforts of our stakeholders who have volunteered their time and resources to raise the profile of wildlife conservation in our country. At the top most level of our government, His Excellency the President and the Cabinet have deliberated on wildlife conservation issues in their first meeting and given clear directions on what should be done. The Cabinet   approved a number of far-reaching measures aimed at safeguarding our wildlife.  The Cabinet also passed the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill and Policy and directed that the measures be fully implemented to stop poaching and streamline management of wildlife.

We are all aware that one of the biggest factors behind the alarming rise in poaching which threatened to wipe out the country’s precious wildlife heritage was the exceedingly low fines meted out to poachers. A fine of Ksh30, 000 was not a deterrent to criminals taking part in an enterprise from which they earned thousands of dollars.

It is, therefore, gratifying that the Cabinet resolved to take a Bill to Parliament proposing that those found guilty of poaching face jail terms of up to seven years and a fine of at least Sh1 million.

Yet another important initiative is the Cabinet decision to hire at least 1,000 new rangers to boost our capacity to deal with the criminal bands, who threaten to drive various prized species to extinction.

On our part and in collaboration with various stakeholders, including you journalists in the media, will do our utmost to safeguard Kenya’s treasured wildlife. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We also appreciate the enthusiasm with which the National Assembly has debated and passed a private member’s motion that sought to enhance penalties for those convicted of wildlife-related crimes. This has demonstrated our leaders’ commitment towards securing wildlife resources.

We also recognise the efforts of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions for robust prosecution of wildlife-related crimes cases. As a result of this, the Judiciary has begun issuing more deterrent sentences to jail terms, fines and bonds on convicted offenders. The office of the DPP and KWS have also committed to working in close collaboration in training KWS prosecution and investigation teams  This will go a long way in mounting successful and effective investigations and prosecutions.

We also deeply appreciate the support we have received from the National Intelligence Service, the National Police Service, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, the Kenya Revenue Authority, the Kenya Ports Authority, the Kenya Airports Authority and the Office of the Attorney General in discharging this onerous responsibility. We acknowledge the contribution of non-state actors especially non-governmental organisations who have raised the plight of wildlife conservation in the country and beyond.  

 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the recent past, there has been an increase in wildlife poaching and trade in wildlife products. The spike has not only been experienced in Kenya but also in other Africa range states.  There has also been an upsurge of smuggling of raw and worked ivory through Kenyan ports of entry and exit by foreigners.  Numerous arrests and seizures have been made jointly by Kenya Wildlife Service Kenya Police, Kenya Revenue Authority, the Kenya Ports Authority, the Kenya Airports Authority and Airlines crews.

Since January 2013, we have lost 137 elephants and 24 rhinos to poaching.  We have recovered 5,842kg of ivory and rhino horns and arrested 123 suspects in connection with these seizures. It’s important to point out that this includes off-shore seizures. At the same time, 22 firearms and 1,141 rounds of ammunition have also been recovered from poachers. As you can see, poaching incidents are still too high and we won’t rest until our wildlife is secured.

Nonetheless, the good news is that we have documented 25 new births for rhinos across rhino ranges in our conservation areas. Currently we have 1025 total rhino population and envisage realization of achieving at least 5 per cent national growth rate annually and less than one (1) per cent man-induced and disease-related deaths.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

You are aware that Kenya’s proposal to fight poaching of elephants and rhinos won backing during the 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP) by Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting on wildlife trade in Thailand early this year. We submitted the ‘Action Plan’ after being identified as one of the eight countries of concern with respect to increased illegal trade in elephant ivory. The objective is to enhance cooperation among States and State Agencies to ensure elephant poaching and illegal trade in elephant ivory is reduced if not eliminated.

The key thematic areas of the Action Plan are:

  • Legislation and regulations
  • Enforcement actions, investigations and national inter-agency collaboration and coordination
  • International and regional wildlife enforcement collaboration
  • Outreach, public awareness and education
  • National reporting to CITES Secretariat and Standing Committee

I would like to appeal to the media to continue supporting wildlife conservation efforts as shown in bullet four above. We are merely custodian of a public resource and require all possible help. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I want to report that our five thematic areas of action as outlined to CITES authorities are being implemented with support from the government and other stakeholders. The recent Cabinet decisions and National Assembly motion referred to earlier are examples of good progress. However, effective Implementation of this Action Plan will require cooperation and collaboration of all stakeholders both internally and externally. Furthermore, we require enormous amounts of resources to implement the Action Plan.  Mobilizing adequate resources needed will be a challenge. The Government through KWS and other law enforcement agencies will endeavour to allocate resources towards this and where needed, reach out to development partners and the CITES Secretariat for support, financial and /or technical

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In view of these challenges KWS has embarked on a process of improving and strengthening its law enforcement capacity. As part of those efforts, KWS will be shortly recruiting 1,000 rangers in phases having secured funding from the national government.  Additionally, the Board of Trustees recently interdicted 32 employees from across the country over suspicion for acts of omission and commission in relation to the illegal killing of wildlife. This action was meant to pave way for further investigations. Three other employees have been removed from the Service. The affected positions range from assistant directors to rangers.

 

The disciplinary actions have been taken pursuant to investigations by the KWS management and Board of Trustees following reports that some KWS employees could be implicated in poaching.  It’s important to clarify that the interdicted staff will not be condemned unheard and will be given an opportunity to clear their names from the allegations levelled against them. This is in keeping with a cardinal principle of natural justice which dictates that accused persons remain innocent until proved guilty as well as KWS own policies and regulations. 

We have also stepped up efforts to combat human wildlife conflicts with aim of alleviating the suffering occasioned by these human wildlife interactions. Kenya government recently released Sh13.2 million to Problem Animal Management Unit (PAMU) for the purchase of tools and equipment in a bid to mitigate human wildlife conflict across the country. The team has a custom made Land Cruiser van, tents and equipment, cameras, GPS equipment, rain clothing, binoculars, and computers among others. Our proactive response has led to a decline in human wildlife conflicts from 1,438 incidents from January to May of year 2012 to 1,323 incidents for a similar period this year.

Since January 2013, the government has released Sh47 million for payment to people killed or injured by wildlife across the country. A total of 626 cases, out of which 106 were deaths cases and 520 injury cases, were reported and approved by the then Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife. Of course, you are aware that we are now under the Ministry of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

Going forward, one of the key remedies that must be pursued with great speed is the enactment of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill, 2012 which proposes stiffer penalties. We call on all stakeholders to support us in pushing for its fast-tracking.

Finally, we would like to assure all Kenyans and the world at large that KWS is up to the task of protecting our wildlife. We are appealing to all citizens of the world to cooperate with us in ensuring that our wildlife is secure. Ultimately, we all have a duty to save the last great species and places for humanity.

 

William K. Kiprono

Director

 

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