By Janet Otieno
I was struck by an interesting conversation during the ongoing Universal Session of the UNEP Governing Council and Global Ministerial Forum (GC-GMF) in Kenya’s capital Nairobi.
When the topic of illegal trade in wildlife came up, somebody seated behind me shouted that "elephants do not have passports" to run to other countries whenever they are threatened in their own habitats. This is because the animals have become the targets of well-organised criminal groups and sometimes armed militias.
I couldn’t agree more going by the report launched during the summit which condemned the ongoing slaughter of elephants and rhinos.
In January this year, Kenyans woke up to some shocking news after poachers killed an entire family of 12 elephants and took away their tusks in the country’s largest wildlife reserve, Tsavo East National Park. Environmentalists quickly opined that game rangers were either caught napping or were in cahoots with the criminals. The latter is a subject for another day.
Poaching is a serious environmental crime which often occurs alongside other offences. Interpol has pointed out that the same routes used to smuggle wildlife products across countries and continents are also used by drug traffickers and other criminals.
The fact that wildlife crime like poaching can lead to the extinction of a species is not something new. However, the people involved have ignored the reality that the overall effect of environmental crimes contribute to global warming and climate change.
Even the 1990 global ban on the international trade in ivory has not deterred the poachers going by the surging demand from Asian markets for rhino and elephant horns and tusks. Experts now believe that poached ivory is exchanged for money, weapons and ammunition to support conflicts in the region.
Raising the red flag
Just to prove how worse it has gotten across the globe, in May last year the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confirmed the seizure of three containers with ivory, which was being shipped from the coastal city of Mombasa to Sri Lanka after being cleared as plastic waste by immigration officials. In the same year, Malaysian officials seized an ivory consignment weighing 24 tonnes which was termed as the world’s biggest ever ivory seizure. More....