By Mazera Ndurya
Theft of natural resources is a challenge to poverty eradication and transition to a green economy, according to the United Nations.
UN Under Secretary and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said activities such as elephant poaching, great ape theft and illegal transport of timber hampered efforts towards sustainable development.
The illegal activities jeopardised the lives of law enforcers and livelihoods of those who make legal living from the natural resources, he told European ministers for environment in Greece at an informal council meeting last week.
He delivered the speech ahead of a major UN meeting that will take place in Nairobi next month, where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other high ranking officials will discuss environmental challenges and emerging issues.
The meeting, which will take place from June 23 to 27, will be significant for Kenya, which has been battling poaching and illegal trade in wildlife trophies.
It will be an inaugural United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). Environment ministers and government officials in attendance are expected to focus on the poaching crisis facing African elephants and rhinos and illegal harvesting and trafficking of timber, fish, tigers, pangolins, great apes, birds, reptiles, among others.
“Deliberations are intended to build upon the increasing international momentum to tackle illegal trade in wildlife,” said Mr Steiner.
Meanwhile, cave elephant, a rare species found in the Mt Elgon National Park, faces extinction due to massive poaching.
In one year, 20 of them have been killed, Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka said Monday.
He said security officers would be deployed to protect the endangered pygmy elephant.
“Roads in the park will be upgraded to ease accessibility by security officers to hunt down the poachers and enable tourists to visit the area without encountering problems,” he said.
Mr Lusaka spoke during a Kenya Wildlife Service forum at Kapsokwony in Mt Elgon Sub-county.
“Poaching needs to be tackled lest it wipes out our wildlife, which has been a source of foreign exchange to the country,” said Mr Lusaka.
He said the county government intended to fully exploit the national park for tourism.
Bungoma County Commissioner Mohamed Maalim said more game wardens had been sent to the park after investigations revealed that poachers from neighbouring countries and their local collaborators were involved in the killing of elephants.
“An inter-agency security operation to flush them out is on and the team is equipped with bulletproof vests,” said Mr Maalim.
The park, which is home to the black rhino and rare birds and plants, has also suffered from illegal logging.
Saw millers have been harvesting the rare Elgon Teak, causing environmental destruction.
In Lamu, a conservation activist raised concern that wildlife such as elephants could become extinct if proper measures to protect them are not taken.
Speaking at the end of a 375-kilometre walk in Lamu Town at the weekend, Elephants Neighbours Centre Director Jim Nyamu said four elephants are killed every day.
He praised a new anti-poaching law enacted early this year, which prescribes that anyone found guilty of harming an endangered species or in possession of elephant tusks shall be fined Sh20 million or jailed for life.