By Justin King
Nairobi - Tang Yong Jian, who was allegedly attempting to smuggle raw ivory out of Kenya to China, may face life imprisonment and a $230,000 fine if convicted. The new punishments are part of Kenya’s new Wildlife Act of 2013.
Prior to the new law, Tang Yong Jian would have been free to go after facing less than a $1000 fine, a punishment that provided little deterrent to smugglers because ivory fetches around $2400 per kilogram in China. The stiff new punishments are intended to stifle the booming trade in ivory taken from poached elephants and rhinoceros. Both species are listed as protected and endangered.
A member of a group that monitors ivory poaching, Zhang Li said
"The smuggling situation is very serious…and China is the biggest ivory market, [sic\"
Tang Yong Jian, a Chinese national, was allegedly attempting to clandestinely move 3.2 kilograms through Mozambique to China.
In addition to the new law, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is providing its anti-poaching details with new equipment and training. Drones, helicopters, and night vision equipment are all part of the new arsenal being deployed against the poachers. A team of British paratroopers is providing advanced training for the units tasked with combating poachers. In one such exercise, a 12-man squad of KWS rangers ambushed and downed two armed poachers. KWS has instituted a shoot to kill policy for poachers. Five KWS rangers were killed in the line of duty last year alone.
Paul Mbugua, a spokesman with KWS said
"They have to think twice now. You just try your luck on the poaching, but the moment we catch up to you, you are done."
Wildlife experts estimate that 20,000 to 30,000 elephants are killed each year in Africa.