Kenyan lawmakers are expected to pass major new wildlife legislation this week. WildlifeDirect is lobbying for lengthy jail sentences but is against the proposed minimum sentence of life imprisonment. Life imprisonment sounds good but will be impossible to implement and is likely to result in an extremely high rate of case dismissals and acquittals. We propose “Up to life imprisonment” for killing elephants and rhino or trading in their products.
This will force magistrates to treat these crimes as felonies which will allow for lengthy jail sentences. Wildlife crimes are currently treated as petty offences and fewer than 5% of convictions lead to jail sentences.
Dr Paula Kahumbu spoke to the Rt Hon. Owen Paterson, the British Secretary of State for the Environment about the Hands Off Our Elephants Campaign plans, achievements and ideas for moving forward. She explained the implications of the new legislation and how it is essential to halt the decline of Kenya’s iconic species. He assured her and all Kenyans that Britain will help Kenya. Kenya is one of the worlds most renowned countries for wildlife tourism and tourism generates 12% of the national GDP and employs over 300,000 people. Despite this, the very wildlife that tourism depends on is declining due to land use change, habitat change, land degradation, illegal hunting and trafficking of wildlife products.
Kahumbu emphasized that while new legislation is an important part of protecting the wildlife asset of Kenya but alone it will not be enough. Law enforcement agencies are not currently using existing legislation to it’s fullest extent. She explained that the WildlifeDirect strategy is to initiate a response to the poaching crisis through behaviour change and reform across different scales and through connections between different players from communities to governments and international organizations. More....