Elephants running scared, rhinos being ominously felled in the dead of the night….what can this be termed but a disaster? This year Kenya has officially lost 51 elephants and 19 rhinos – even after the enactment of a wildlife law that promises life imprisonment for those convicted of these heinous crimes leaving many of us befuddled. So many had thought that punitive measures would mark an end or at least a slowing down in the rate of killings, they had pinned their hopes in a justice system where crooks are brought to book and would-be crooks scared off by strong law enforcement. Instead we are seeing an escalation in the number of rhinos killed and a continued onslaught on our now openly petrified elephants.
At this time, Kenya needs a strong unified voice that cuts through the veil of impunity and corruption that seems to block us in every one of our efforts to rise above it. Instead, a war is being fought via the media – one side calling for KWS management to be axed and the KWS responding by saying the situation is not a national disaster and that those terming it as such have ulterior motives. KUAPO’s perspective is simple – it is a national disaster. We have been calling for it to be declared as such since January 22nd, 2013 when we marched in Nairobi, over 300 strong, and demanded then President Mwai Kibaki to declare poaching a national disaster and poachers as economic saboteurs. We followed this up with a petition to now President Uhuru Kenyatta asking the same thing and were informed by State House that the matter was being accorded due attention.
What we ask now is for unity and for positive criticism – let us stop with the distractions. The poachers and their cartels are probably laughing all the way to the bank at this divisiveness between the ranks who are supposed to fight them together. So our appeal is as follows:
To KWS: We are with every one of you who are true,honest and loyal to the cause and we want to help in any way that we can. We recognize the immense odds that you are up against it and we thank you every day for what you do. Please stay strong and keep fighting, we are proud of those that stand up for our wildlife. We also ask that you take strong and stern action against those who are sullying your good name and bring them to account. Restore the image of KWS as the leading wildlife conservation authority in Africa that is being tarnished both by those who are betraying you from within and without.
To Conservation NGO’s: Let us unite in this fight and provide “positive” criticism. Let us focus on what can be done right instead of trying to point fingers and find a scapegoat. Last year, a lot of blame was being placed on the judiciary and magistrates in law enforcement, this year the blame appears to have shifted to KWS. We are not doing ourselves any favours by playing this blame game. Yes there are issues within the judiciary and within KWS that need to be addressed, let us try and focus on what we can do to help address those issues instead of blaming and demoralising these institutions.
To the Press/Media: We ask that you are prudent and careful in your reporting. We ask that you focus on investigative and thorough journalism as opposed to sensationalism. Your pens are strong weapons, please don’t use them frivolously at the whim of those who want to create divisiveness. Write the stories that need to be told but please do your homework and get the right facts.
Let us all stop looking for scapegoats….and concentrate on what we can all bring to the table to make a difference for our wildlife, for our heritage and for our future generations.
In closing, we ask again, Mr President – please declare Poaching A National Disaster – galvanise all forces against this menace. Help us cut through the corruption and impunity that will allow those honest and hard-working KWS officers and rangers, police, magistrates etc to bring down the cartels that have made Kenya their home. Please, Mr President… 20,000 and more are asking…it’s time for that stern action you promised. If you haven’t signed it yet – please do. If you have, please distribute it we are less than 5,000 shy of our 25,000 mark.
It is only through unity that we will be able to emerge from this disaster