By Paula Kahumbu
WildlifeDirect has been studying the conclusion of wildlife crime cases at Nairobi's Makadara court which handles all arrests made at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Already this year there have been at least 45 arrests.
Out of 45 arrests 84% were offenders of nationalities from the Far East (42% were Chinese, and 39% Vietnamese, another 11% Thai and 2% from Laos).
41 of the offenders, or 93%, had ivory. Six individuals had ivory and lion claws, two had snake skin. One Vietnamese man had 5 rhino horns.
Apart from one case where the file was incomplete, all of the offenders pleaded guilty.
Earlier this year WildlifeDirect began drawing attention to the release of offenders at Makadara court on petty fines when the current law actually allows for up to 10 years for offences against elephant and rhino or trafficking in their products.
Things seemed to turn around when Chinese woman Chen Bie Mei was arrested at JKIA with 6.8 kg of ivory packaged as macadamia nuts, she pleaded guilty and to her surprise was jailed for 2 years 7 months on August 15th.
Kenyans celebrated, they thought that things had changed. However, our follow-up research shows hat this was a rare occurrence. In fact, only 3 people have been sent to jail for crimes against elephants and rhino at Makadara court this year. That's less than 7% - ie if you are caught with ivory or rhino horn at JKIA, the probability of going to jail is less than 1 in 12.
This is surprising given the economic impact of the slaughter of elephants and rhino, especially in light of the fact that the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, Cap 376 for 10 years in jail for offenses involving elephant, rhino and lion.
The magistrates have been more than lenient - in 7 cases where offenders pleaded guilty, magistrates discharged them and set them free!! More....