By John Muchangi
Kenya has escaped CITES sanctions after being struck off the list of worst offenders who were not doing enough to tackle the illegal ivory trade.
The country was last year named to the so-called 'Gang of 8' countries that were likely to face trade sanctions if they did not implement a national action plan on ivory.
Kenya's plan was audited at the recent CITES meeting in Geneva and the country awarded a certificates of commendation.
The certificate was presented to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) acting Director General William Kiprono last week.
"Kenya's report are more comprehensive than reports from the other seven countries forming the group of eight countries of concern regarding illegal trade in ivory," says a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).
The other seven countries are Tanzania, Uganda, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, China and Hong Kong. Cites is a United Nations agreement between governments, providing protection for species that are endangered by international trade.
Thailand received a damning review and will remain on the offenders list because it has done little to combat its role in ivory trade.
The country has been given till March next year to change its national laws to control its legal domestic ivory trade or face sanctions.
"The Cites Secretariat will examine the progress that Thailand has made on tackling laundering of illegal ivory into its market on 15th January, 2015 and again on March 31st 2015," a statement said.
Poaching remains high in Kenya and poachers have killed 26 rhinos and 111 elephants this year, mostly in vast private conservancies.
The incidence is however lower than last year's, partly due to the new punitive Wildlife Act.
Since Kenya implemented its national ivory action plan, ivory seizures have shot up, with 80 per cent of large-scale global ivory seizures occurring in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Cites also ordered 11 more countries to develop national action plans, based on the success in Kenya.
The new countries were identified as being major players in the illegal trade.
They are Angola, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Cambodia, Mozambique, Nigeria and the Lao PDR.
"Action-oriented and time bound national plans to combat illegal ivory trade have proven to be effective and successful," said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of Cites.