By Alex Kiprotich
Kenya: As the country grapples with the poaching menace, The Standard has learnt that Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials are involved in the vice.
Multiple sources interviewed by The Standard reveal poachers are working in cahoots with KWS personnel, from the top-most to the rangers, to send signals to poachers on the location of a targeted rhino.
And the process begins with the Management Staff Committee (MSC), which based at KWS headquarters and whose mandate is to promote, transfer and discipline staff.
Our sources said the MSC has been incriminated in the poaching spree that has puzzled the country. Furthermore, no action has been taken on senior wardens or assistant directors who preside over parks where killing of the animals is rampant.
The Standard found out a pattern especially in Lake Nakuru National Park where senior wardens have been transferred to other parks, mostly at the Coast, after a number of rhinos are killed in their areas.
“I have no doubt this committee, either by design or error of omission, is linked to poaching. They are the ones who identify who heads which park and when to transfer. Look at how the transfers in Nakuru, which has become a poaching field for rhinos, are effected and at what point,” the source said.
Our investigations indeed reveal a predictable pattern. Senior wardens are transferred on promotion after a number of rhinos are killed. Then, a replacement is brought only to be removed as soon as the next killings have taken place.
Despite Lake Nakuru National Park having had a constant change of senior wardens, the killing of rhinos whose pricey horns are worth the price of gold, has not stopped.
Between June 2011 and October 2011, three rhinos were killed under the watch of one official. And when he exited, another one took over between October 2011 and August 2013. Under his watch, more than 15 rhinos were killed before he was ultimately transferred to Malindi and his position taken by another official.
Since then, 16 rhinos have been killed. But even with the shocking killings, some executed in broad daylight, the MSC has now promoted one of the officials to the position of Deputy Assistant Director while sending another one for further training. Such training is offered to officers designated for promotion.
The promoted official had previously worked in Eastern where 50 elephants were wiped out during his tenure. He was transferred to KWS headquarters where he stayed for one year. “If the MSC was serious about wildlife conservation, would that happen?” posed our source.
The Rangers now say poaching inside the highly protected Lake Nakuru National Park, which was was established as a rhino sanctuary in 1984, has reduced rhinos to less than 100, and not 200 as stated by KWS bosses.
“If something is not done, we may not have any rhinos in the next few months,” said an officer. The 188 square-kilometre park is guarded by more than 70 rangers who are armed with sophisticated weapons. .
Rangers who spoke to us on condition of anonymity opened up after being assured that they would not be exposed. The rangers are living in fear, after reports started leaking to the media and their seniors started monitoring their calls.