By Gatonye Gathura
Kenya is losing about two elephants every week to poaching with some of the proceeds said to be used to finance Al-Shabaab and other criminal groups.
The situation is so bad that Kenya Wildlife Service director Julius Kipng’etich recently took the fight to the US Senate.
At an African poaching crisis hearing held on May 25, the US was blamed for its lax rules on shell companies that are allowing foreign nationals to set up vast money-laundering operations that are being used by wildlife traffickers.
Mr Kipng’etich revealed the link between the surging illegal trade in high-value wildlife products and transnational criminal networks that are creating instability and funding militant insurgencies.
“Poached ivory travels through the same channels as drugs and people who are being trafficked. Terrorist organisations like Al-Shabaab have been linked to poaching in Kenya,” he told the hearing.
Expensive than gold
According to the KWS assistant director for education and conservation Paul Mbugua, a kilogramme of rhino ivory is costing up to $65,000 (Sh5.5 million) with one animal producing between 6-to-7 kilogrammes.
“This is more expensive than gold. A kilo of elephant ivory is fetching about $2,000 (Sh170,000) on the black market.”
The huge amounts of money involved have led to a rise in poaching. Last year, the country lost 278 elephants to poachers compared to 171 the previous year.
The illicit activity picked up to dangerous levels in December when Kenya was losing an average of four elephants a week. More....