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Kenya Wildlife Service statement on status of wildlife conservation

Date Published: 16 Jan, 2013
Kenya Wildlife Service statement on status of wildlife conservation

KWS Director, William Kiprono, displays a recovered rhino horn soon after addressing a press conference on Kenya’s wildlife and tourism operations at the KWS headquarters in Nairobi.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much for turning up for today’s press conference. We have invited you here to update you on the status of wildlife conservation in year 2012 and the prospects for year 2013.

 We also have some samples of recovered illegally held firearms and wildlife trophies on display. The bulk of the recoveries are not here because they are exhibits in the ongoing investigations and prosecutions in courts of law across the country.

 We shall shortly share with you the successes and challenges of year 2012. These shall demonstrate our commitment to our vision of saving the last great species and spaces on earth for humanity. This duty comes against the backdrop of incredible challenges of climate change, proliferation of illegal firearms, volatility of tourism industry and human population growth. We are also faced with challenges of heightened poaching and illegal trade in wildlife products, degraded and shrinking wildlife habitats and increased human wildlife conflict. Put together, these are no easy challenges. 

The price of ivory and rhino horn continues to rise by the day leading to increased poaching of elephants and rhinos. Growing affluence and economic growth in the Far East and South-East Asian countries has increased demand for natural resources, including an increased demand for wildlife and wildlife products. Consequently, Kenya’s wildlife (especially rhinos, elephants and cat family) are among the contraband products in the illegal wildlife trade. In addition, the CITES decision of the one-off sale of ivory by Southern African countries to Japan and China in year 2007 continues to haunt wildlife conservation efforts, not just in Kenya but in the whole continent.

Rhino and Elephants security

There has been a gradual escalation in elephant and rhino poaching since 2005 due to market dynamics influenced by escalation in the black market prices driven by demand in the Asian countries.

Only last week, a gang of 10 poachers are believed to have slaughtered and carted off ivory from a family of elephants at the remote Bisadi area near Ithumba in north of Tsavo East National Park. One of the discovered carcasses belongs to a juvenile elephant estimated at two months of age. All the carcasses had bullet wounds. One suspect has since been arrested and is assisting with ongoing investigations.

Kenya is home to the largest population of rhinos in East and Central Africa. The country therefore remains the main target for poachers of rhino horn. Our rhino population currently stands at a total of 1010 with 623 being black and 387 white rhinos. The white rhino sub-species population includes four Northern White Rhinos imported from the Czech Republic in 2009.

Due to sustained pressure to combat rhino poaching within KWS managed national parks and reserves, there has been a crime displacement to areas outside the parks.

In year 2012, Kenya lost 384 elephants and 29 rhinos to poaching compared to 289 elephants and 25 rhinos poached in year 2011. These figures include animals that succumbed to a poacher’s bullet or arrow following a poaching attempt. Of all the elephant poaching cases in year 2012, 300 elephants, (representing 78% of poaching cases) were poached in wildlife dispersal areas outside the parks with 22% of poaching occurring in protected areas. (Correction has been done to include rhino cases that died as a result of injuries inflicted by poachers as poached cases)

To respond to these challenges, KWS has developed strategies aimed at enhancing elephant and rhino security to protect them from poaching threats mainly from armed gangs and also apprehending and dismantling the poaching syndicates. We added our security and community engagements budget investment by up to 10% in the financial year. Notable recoveries include those of firearms, ammunition, ivory, other hunting weapons and impounding of vehicles used in transporting ivory.  Another critical achievement realized during the security operation is stakeholder engagement. Our operation teams have reached out to our stakeholders, especially communities living adjacent to protected areas, in winning war on poaching. Besides, we reviewed and launched the 5th edition of Rhino Conservation Strategic Plan 2012–2016 - ‘Conservation and Management Strategy for the Black Rhino in Kenya’. The new edition re-focuses our collective efforts on rhino conservation despite the ever-increasing conservation challenges.  This Strategic Plan has maintained Kenya’s vision to conserve at least 2000 black rhinos in the wild. The Strategic Plan defines a revised overall goal of conserving at least 750 black rhinos by the end of 2016, achieving at least 5% national growth rate and less than 1% man-induced and disease-related deaths. 

Ivory Seizures

Kenya remains an important link on trade routes to international destinations for illicit consignments of wildlife products and particularly ivory. As a country, Kenya is concerned with the use of her entry/exit points for trafficking of wildlife products. In ivory trafficking, both Kenyan citizens and foreigners are involved and the destination of the ivory and rhino horns is mainly outside the country.

Some of the ivories seized in Kenya were on transit from Angola, South Sudan, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo among others. Destinations for the ivory contraband included China, Nigeria, Malaysia and Thailand. For example in June 2012, 345 pieces of elephant ivory weighing 601 kg stuffed in six wooden boxes were intercepted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. The contraband was being smuggled to Lagos, Nigeria. In September 2012, a consignment of 62 pieces of raw elephant ivory weighing 255 kg was seized at the same Nairobi airport. The contraband, whose origins have not been established, was due to be exported to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Details of various seizures are in the accompanying fact sheet.

Yesterday 15th January 2013, a 20 feet container suspected of containing ivory was subjected to verification and it turned out that it was containing elephant ivory wrapped in bundles of gunny bags and concealed by layers of slabs of local stones commonly known as Mazeras stones. The suspicion of the container arose when the KPA operations personnel who were looking for documents used to ship the container seized in Hong Kong early this month identified other documents with descriptions and details similar to those noted in the Hong Kong seizure. KWS had written to KPA requesting for details of the transaction related to the Hong Kong seizure.The KPA personnel located the container and called KRA personnel for verification.

Several consignments of ivory have also been intercepted in other parts of the world with reports linking some of the seizures to have originated from Kenya. Investigations to establish the origin of the impounded ivory are usually conducted. Some of the ivory has been found to have originated from southern and central African elephant range states. KWS shall continue to work with other law enforcement agencies, especially Customs, the police, INTERPOL, Lusaka Agreement Task Force, Kenya Airports Authority and Kenya Ports Authority, among others in ensuring that local and international laws on wildlife crimes are enforced.   

Our anti poaching efforts have borne significant achievements in the course of last year. We arrested and took to court 1,949 suspects. They were charged with various wildlife-related offences. Our efforts have also resulted in notable recoveries of illegal wildlife trophies and firearms. These include 80 rifles, 2777 rounds of ammunition and several magazines which have been recovered since January last year. We also impounded 46 vehicles, 38 motorbikes, 46 bicycles and a hand drawn cart in various parts of the country. In addition, 1,677 pieces of ivory weighing 4,644 kilograms were also been recovered. During the same year, seven rhino horns weighing 14 kilograms were also recovered. Other assorted crude weapons in possession of poachers recovered include poisoned arrows, bows, snares, axes, pangas, knives, spears, power saws and hand saws.

Livestock incursion into some wildlife protected areas was still high despite efforts to drive them out.  A total of 207,186 animals were driven out of the parks. The details are in the quick reference fact-sheet to be provided.

The country’s ivory stockpile under KWS custody is secure and proper management system and accounting procedures are in place and each trophy can easily be traced and accounted for. The allegations and suspicion that this Government stockpile may have been the source of some of these contraband ivory is unfounded. Relevant agencies have conducted audits into the safety of the stockpile. KWS is still open for any further audits and verification, if necessary.

The safety of local and international tourists within all protected areas and other areas under KWS jurisdiction was ensured through enhanced visitor security patrols/operations. KWS, in close liaison with the Tourist Police Unit, maintained security in wildlife-protected areas as well as on the important access roads linking the different protected areas.  

In the course of last year, KWS made various efforts to diversify and improve tourism products. We launched the world’s highest Via Ferrata at 4985m above sea level in Mt Kenya National Park besides improving the park’s general infrastructure. This will encourage visitors to engage in a diversity of recreational activities other than focusing solely on mountaineering activities. We also branded Mombasa Marine National Park and launched a well-received beach management programme. Besides, the construction of a natural health spa at Hells Gate National Park is at an advanced stage and we anticipate to be open later this year. The facility, which is a partnership between Kengen and KWS, will see an increase in spa tourism. On a another positive note, flamingos have started returning to Lake Nakuru. .  

On another front, our pre-emptive intervention to combat human wildlife conflict and alleviate the suffering occasioned by these human-wildlife interactions has led to a significant drop in number of cases reported from 4,887 in year 2011 to 3,737 in year 2012.   Within last year, a total of 1035 compensation claims comprising of 164 death claims and 872 injury claims amounting to Kshs. 76,295,000 were paid out to persons and next of kin for those injured or killed by wildlife. A further Kshs. 5,900,000 worth of cases was approved and we are awaiting Treasury to release the funds for payment to claimants. To enable us serve the public effectively, we are sending an appeal to the public to give us information on problem animals to enable us act in good time. We can be reached through a 24/7 hotlines of 0736506052, 0770296352, and 0728331981.  We also have a Twitter account @kwskenya

Besides, we have also conducted two community conservancy rangers’ training comprising of 401 rangers in an effort to build their capacity fro wildlife management. We have made an investment worth Kshs. 124million in106 CSR/community wildlife enterprise projects spread across the country. Out of these monies, Kshs. 75,044,553 was invested in education projects, Kshs. 40,600,772 in wildlife-based enterprises, Kshs. 3,794,998 in health and Kshs. 4,745,200 in water projects.

Also, towards wildlife industry governance, KWS teamed up with The Nature Conservancy and WWF to mobilize private, group and community wildlife conservancies to form Kenya Wildlife Conservancy Association. The association is now in place and a functional management board constituted. We anticipate a more rational and vibrant engagement with these key stakeholders.

Resource mobilization

While discharging our mandate, we appeal to citizens of the world to support us in saving the last great species and places for humanity. They  can help us in various operations of wildlife conservation namely Research and Biodiversity monitoring, Human-Wildlife Conflict mitigation, wildlife translocation, Endowment Fund, Animal Adoption Programme, among others by giving donations in cash or in kind. We are open to receive your support through the pledge forms and donation boxes.  For Kenya Wildlife Service, every penny counts. We are also open to receive ideas that can help us in our conservation endeavors.

Finally, we would like to assure all Kenyans and the world at large that despite the global challenges of poaching, KWS is up to the task of protecting our wildlife. We are also counting on the support of all Kenyans and the world if we are to win the war against poachers. We also assure visitors that our national parks and reserves are safe.

Download : Fact sheet on Wildlife Security and Human Wildlife Conflict issue

William K. Kiprono



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