By Joanna M. Foster
Last week, four rhinos were killed in Kenya. The slaughter, however, didn't catch many people's attention. The fact of the matter is that elephants and rhinos are being poached at such an alarming rate this year that the individual tragedies are hardly newsworthy. Kenya has already lost 117 elephants and 21 rhinos in the first five months of 2013.
Despite the fact that wildlife tourism is the backbone of the Kenyan economy, the country has been notoriously lenient with poachers, with fines of around $480 and maximum jail time of just two years—consequences which were very rarely imposed.
Now, the Kenyan parliament is at long last addressing the country's poaching crisis, like the impending economic and security catastrophe that it is. The fine for poaching has rocketed to $120,000 with a potential 15-year jail sentence.
Across Africa, it's part of a growing trend to crack down on the heavily armed gangs that are decimating one of the continent's most precious natural resources.
"Kenya's elephants declined from 160,000 in 1960s to 16,000 in 1989 due to poaching," said Chachu Ganya, MP for North Horr, in a speech to fellow legislators. "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."
"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," said Paula Khumbu, Executive Director of Wildlife Direct. "MPs today voted for Kenya to restore her position as a global leader in wildlife conservation." More....