By Kibiwott Koross
Poaching has recently been on the rise, with whole herds of elephants massacred for their ivory. Rhinos have also not been spared. Our writer KIBIWOTT KOROSS spoke to KWS director WILLIAM KIPRONO about a wide range of issues affecting the sector. Of immediate concern, however, is the lenient sentences for convicted wildlife poachers or ivory smugglers.
How has it been at KWS since you joined?
It is a challenging job. It has been a rigorous exercise and I am happy of the support from my staff. We work as a team and our goal is to deliver results which I am sure we will.
Some have been questioning your appointment. They claim you didn't go through a vetting process. Are you in office legally?
Yes, I am in office legally. I was appointed by the President (President Kibaki). The current Wildlife Act is silent on vetting that is why we need a new Bill now. The KWS Cap 376 gives the President powers to appoint a director. Again, I was a public servant and my credentials have never been questioned.
There have been numerous cases of elephant poaching which seem to be rising day by day. What is your take on this?
Poaching of elephants has been alarming especially late last year and early this year but the figures have since dropped. We have been working around the clock to arrest the poachers and all those involved. Our security personnel are out in the field and you can know from the court cases and number of those being arrested that we are making an effort.
What we need is to cut the links of poachers who are members of local communities living around our parks and the traders. The demand of ivory is high and thus the price.
The availability of ready market in Asia is also a major contributor coupled by our weak laws. Imagine a situation where a poacher is bailed on a Sh30,000 bond even after being nabbed with ivory worth millions of shillings. This has to change and we need strict laws which will scare away poachers.
Our only hope is the new Wildlife Bill which is yet to be passed by parliament which will bring in stiffer penalties. We are looking at a penalty of at least five years imprisonment and fine of Sh15 million. More....