By David Herling
The Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko has set up a special unit to try wildlife related crimes in an effort to arrest rampant poaching and ivory trade witnessed in Kenya recently.
Mr Tobiko has established the Wildlife Crimes Prosecution Unit which is mandated to provide try all wildlife offences such as poaching and trophy hunting.
The unit comprises of 35 prosecutors who have already undergone specialist training and will enforce the provisions of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act which came into effect in January this year.
The new legislation slaps poachers and dealers in illegal animal trophies with life imprisonment and a fine of more than Sh20 million.
“As the world celebrates the World Wildlife Day today, the DPP wishes to reaffirm his commitment towards protection of our wildlife, which is our national heritage,” Mr Tobiko said on Monday.
He added that the law will be ‘robustly applied against offenders’ and called for increased cooperation and support from all stakeholders and the wider public.
The new unit has already developed a rapid reference guide and model charge sheets on provisions of the law relating to wildlife offences.
Mr Tobiko has also established a working committee with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to coordinate investigation and prosecution and conduct joint trainings on wildlife issues.
Sport hunting now attracts a five-year jail term and Sh5 million fine or both while animal hunters will pay Sh1 million and get a two-year jail term or both.
Those found hunting or trading in bush-meat face a one-year jail term, a Sh200,000 fine or both if convicted. Compensation for life lost to a wild animal has been increased to Sh5 million.
Those who are maimed will receive Sh3 million while those injured will receive a maximum of Sh2 million, depending on the extent of the injury.
However, conservationists have sounded alarm bells on provisions in the newly enacted wildlife management law, which appear to create loopholes for sport hunting.
The Act legalises the killing of excess wild animals and harvesting of wild game for a range of products technically referred to as cropping.
It further provides for local processing and sale of wildlife trophies from animals that have been cropped.