By Elijah Chemobo
The Judiciary has thrown its weight behind the punitive Wildlife and Conservation Act, which sets a maximum life imprisonment or a fine of Sh20 million for poachers.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga said the Kenya Wildlife Service, Judiciary and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions will now collaborate to end poaching.
“With new laws and effective inter-agency cooperation, we will nab and jail the ivory dealers. This will stem the flow of ivory and quickly secure our elephants and rhinos," said Dr Mutunga as he officially opened the dialogue meeting on wildlife crimes in Nairobi on Wednesday. Mutunga said his office is committed to ensure the reforms succeed. He said there is no doubt the new law and reforms court reforms will transform the wildlife crime situation in Kenya.
Environment Secretary Judy Wakhungu said the penalties will make poaching non-profitable.She said the wildlife sector is a key pillar of Kenya's economy as it is the backbone of the tourism industry. "We have now classified wildlife crimes as economic crimes so that they attract stiff punishments for those involved," Wakhungu said.
She said they will also work closely with the Judiciary in understanding the gravity of wildlife related crimes. "The custodial sentences and fines will now reflect the damage that the illicit trade brings to the wellbeing of Kenya," Wakhungu said.
The first casualty of the new law is a Chinese Tang Jian, who was fined Sh20 million after he was caught with ivory weighing 3.4kg at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. If he is unable to pay the fine, he will be jailed for seven years.
Wakhungu said Kenya is a source and a transit destination for ivory and other illicit wildlife products. She said her Ministry, the Judiciary and related stakeholders will work with the international community to ensure that demand for wildlife products is eliminated.