By John Nassivera
Officials announced last week that the Kenyan Government plans to use drones in its fight with elephant and rhino poachers.
Poaching has increased in the past few years in sub-Saharan Africa, where criminal gangs have killed elephants for tusks and rhinos for horns, according to Reuters. The tusks and horns are usually shipped to Asia to be used as ornaments and in traditional medicine.
Kenya will also introduce a new law with stricter penalties for poachers, such as longer jail terms and bigger fines, The Independent reported.
"We will start piloting the use of drones in the Tsavo National Park ecosystem, one of the largest national parks in the world," said Patrick Omondi, deputy director for wildlife conservation at the Kenya Wildlife Service.
Omondi also said the drones would be imported, but did not say at how cost or how many would be made available.
Tsavo National Park is Kenya's biggest park, featuring plains and water holes with a variety of wildlife, such as elephants, The Independent reported. Kenya has become a huge transit route for ivory that is moved to Asian markets from eastern and central Africa.
The government said poaching is also having a negative impact on tourism, a huge source of revenue for Kenya.
"We attribute the problem of poaching in Kenya and other African states to growing demand and higher prices offered for rhino horn and elephant ivory in the Far East countries," said William Kiprono, Kenya Wildlife Service's acting Director General.
Kiprono added that so far this year, Kenya has lost 51 elephants and 18 rhinos to poaching. A total of 59 rhinos and 302 elephants were killed last year, and 30 rhinos and 384 elephants were killed in 2012, Reuters reported.
Kenya officers were able to seize 13.5 tons of ivory last year at the port city of Mombasa, Reuters reported. Most of the ivory came from other countries in the region. Over 249 suspects were arrested so far this year and have been prosecuted for different wildlife offenses.
Conservationists are looking for the new law to discourage crime with its larger fines and longer jail sentences.