By Jacqueline Charles
Kenya Every day, 96 elephants are gunned down in Africa. Every 11 hours, a rhino is slaughtered. And every few years, Kenya loses a wildlife park ranger at the hands of a poacher.
“Encounters between the poachers and the rangers almost always turn fatal on one side,” said Paul Mbugua, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, which has lost 13 rangers to poachers in the last three years — four this year alone. “It’s like fighting a guerrilla war.”
As a resurgence of illicit ivory and rhino-horn trafficking leaves a trail of blood across Africa, this East African nation is borrowing a page from America’s war on drugs. Sniffer dogs, normally used to ferret out cocaine shipments, are being put to work in Kenya to track down hidden tusks and horns passing through Kenya’s seaport and airports.
“They are very good,” said Cpl. David Sang, head of the Kenya Wildlife Service’s K-9 unit based in Mombasa, a leading transit route for smugglers. “A dog’s sense of smell is very high.”
Indeed, even ivory, referred to as “white gold” in China, carries its own scent. So do rhino horns, which sell for close to $30,000 a pound — as much as $390,000 for the horns of a single white rhino — on the black market, according to the African Wildlife Foundation.
The dogs have become a key tool in Kenya where rangers are being outgunned and outwitted by ruthless, well-armed and well-financed poachers trying to meet the growing demand for ivory and rhino horns in Asia.
But the unprecedented demand is presenting an economic and security challenge for Kenya, which attracts about $1 billion a year in wildlife tourism revenue. More....