By Kitavi Mutua
Kenya’s war on poaching is paying dividends, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Wednesday.
Director-General William Kiprono said the number of animals killed by poachers had drastically gone down in recent years and the situation is set to get even better.
“Kenya is doing far much better as recent census show increase in wildlife numbers, compared to other countries such as Uganda and South Africa who had to deploy their military forces to fight poachers,” Mr Kiprono said.
READ : KENYA HAILED FOR ITS EFFORTS IN FIGHTING POACHING
Mr Kiprono who spoke in Machakos where he opened a workshop for rangers and scientists dismissed calls to declare poaching a national disaster saying such a move would kill tourism.
“The country has made a lot of gains in containing the problem and the poaching menace was under control.
“Our sustained efforts in dealing with poaching cartels have been successful and I can say the worst is now behind us,” he said.
Mr Kiprono accused conservation groups of waging a smear campaign using “alarmingly manufactured figures” about the crisis in Kenya to attract donors funds.
“Statistics show a decline in poaching cases since 2012 and there is a different trend contrary to what some lobby groups have been portraying,” Mr Kiprono said.
“Up to the end of last month, Kenya had lost 116 elephants and 26 rhinos to poachers. Comparatively, we are winning this war because in 2012 we lost 384 elephants and 30 rhinos while in 2011, some 289 elephants and 29 rhinos were killed” he explained.
The director said he was not downplaying the magnitude of wildlife crime but reiterated that declaring poaching a national disaster will be counter productive.
Conservationists have repeatedly said KWS was losing the fight against poachers and that the country’s famed wildlife will soon be no more.
A lobby group, Kenyans United Against Poaching (KUAPO), has so far gathered more than 20,000 signatures as it seeks to present a plea to President Kenyatta to declare poaching a national disaster.
Their petition is currently being scrutinised by the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
“More elephants are being killed in South Africa and Uganda than in Kenya. Why haven’t those countries declared poaching a disaster?” Mr Kipr0no said. “Thes calls are driven by sinister motives.”
He said Kenya is yet to reach that critical stage and declaring poaching a national disaster will only scare off tourists. Figures being bandied around are misleading and intended to justify donor funding to NGOs.
Recently enacted Wildlife Conservation Act spells out tough penalties including life sentences and Sh20 million fines for poaching offences, and will boost the war on poaching, he said.