By Wolfgang H. Thome
The recent killings of several rhinos inside the Nakuru National Park, all apparently done in broad daylight and close to park offices for rhino surveillance and a senior staffer’s office, have now resulted in several key staff being moved to other parks, ostensibly to make way for a new and perhaps sharper team while allowing for the necessary investigations to take place without any staff suspected of possible collusion with poachers able to interfere with the process. Affected were reportedly over 20 rangers, now accused of sleeping on their job, as well as a Senior Warden from Nakuru and an Assistant Director in charge of the Central Rift Region at the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) head office.
According to information received from Kenya, some 5 rhinos were killed last week, hot on the heels of 2 rhino killings in the Nairobi National Park over the past months and one in the Masai Mara, also last week.
It is not clear why the staff in question were sent packing to other assignments and not suspended while investigations are ongoing, with some conservationists in fact suggesting that only by sacking those found complicity or negligent can proper discipline be restored and maintained.
Others blamed the laxity of internal surveillance and supervision at KWS as apparently the poachers time and again evaded detection, perhaps alerted to patrols and outpost locations allowing them to escape unnoticed after doing their bloody handiwork in both Nairobi and Nakuru national parks.
Considering the new wildlife law in Kenya which provides for fines of up to US$232,000 and long prison terms including life sentences, observers are at a loss to explain how poaching of rhinos could suddenly surge as it did in recent weeks and months while KWS personnel seems unable, or perhaps unwilling because of alleged complicity, to stop the poaching tsunami which is now rolling over East Africa with the origins in South Africa where last year alone 1,004 rhinos were killed. Upcountry conservancies have meanwhile stepped up their own security measures it was learned but are also facing major challenges considering the often sprawling estates of tens of thousands of acres which they need to monitor and defend.