By Jeremy Hance
The Kenyan parliament has approved emergency measures to tackle the on-going poaching crisis: last week Kenyan MPs approved higher penalties for poachers including fines up to $120,000 and 15 years in jail. The new penalties come into place just as Kenya Wildlife Service's (KWS) is pursuing a gang of poachers that slaughtered four rhinos over the weekend. Both rhinos and elephants have suffered heavily as poaching has escalated in Kenya and beyond.
"Kenya's elephants declined from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching. Today Kenya is home to only 38,500 elephants and 1,025 rhinos. These animals are a major tourism attraction and anyone who threatens them is committing economic sabotage and should be treated as such," Chachu Ganya, MP for North Horr, told fellow legislatures during deliberation. Since January 1st, Kenya has already lost 117 elephants and 21 rhinos to wildlife poachers.
Still, Kenya has been known for years as having light penalties for poachers, including a fine of around $480 and up to two years in jail, though this prison time was rarely applied. New penalties have raised possible fines by 25 times and jail time by 7 times.
"The passing of this bill is a huge victory, it is the strongest message from the Government of Kenya on the commitment to preserve our national heritage. MPs today voted for Kenya to restore her position as a global leader in wildlife conservation," says Paula Kahumbu, the Executive Director of Kenya-based NGO, WildlifeDirect, which is campaigning to protect elephants in Kenya. More....