By Kipchumba Kemei
Kenya: Several Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials interdicted on suspicion of abetting poaching have been found innocent, Environment Cabinet Secretary Judi Wakhungu has said.
She said a panel that had been established to probe them last year absolved them of any wrongdoing, forcing KWS management to unconditionally reinstate them.
Wildlife activists had earlier claimed that there was political interference in the running of KWS, charging that a senior deputy director and others who had been interdicted on suspicion of participating in poaching were reinstated at the behest of some senior Government officials.
Wakhungu said poaching was a national and international syndicate, adding that South Africa was fast losing its herds of rhino compared to Kenya, which has lost only 18 black and white rhinos this year.
“Poaching has not reached a level that can be classified as a national disaster. All the Government agencies, including the KWS rangers, have been put on high alert to deal with the marauding poachers,” she said during a news briefing.
She, however, warned KWS officials who collude with poachers that their days were numbered, vowing that stern action would be taken against them.
But the CS could not say why outgoing KWS Central Rift Conservation Director Jonathan Kirui and other senior officials based at Lake Nakuru, the wildlife sanctuary where more than seven rhinos have been killed this year, were recently transferred instead of investigations being done.
“We cannot victimise them because we have not found them guilty. After all, transfers are normal,” she said, adding that adequate measures had been put in place to stop the killings.
She noted that it was hard for KWS to police Lake Nakuru because of the rising water levels that have forced wild animals to move close to the fences, exposing them to poachers.
She also said the park, which earns KWS billions of shillings in revenue annually from tourism activities, was overstretched, adding the population of buffaloes has over the last two years increased from 1,000 to 5, 000.
“The large population has forced other wild animals to move from their habitats to where they are now prone to poachers. The population has also fueled human-wildlife conflict,” she said.