By Richard Vigne
The illegal killing of elephants and rhinos continues to escalate across the country, amidst ever increasing clamour for stiffer penalties for convicted poachers. The adoption of the new Wildlife Act would see to that. However, the Act continues to sit pending before Parliament, as it has done for close to 12 months.
Calls to treat the poaching of Kenya's iconic species as organized crime, or "economic sabotage" continue to be ignored by the judiciary. Witness the recent case of 4 Chinese nationals each fined USD 340 after being found in possession of USD 24,000 dollars worth of illegal ivory.
Or the case of Tian Yi (yes, another Chinese national) caught in possession of 439 pieces of ivory (probably worth over USD 10,000), for which he paid a fine equivalent to less than one dollar per piece - and then walked free.
To those involved in the illegal killing and trading of wildlife in Kenya, we are a laughing stock. No wonder CITES (The Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species), for all its traditional lack of effectiveness, is exasperated and now threatening Kenya with trade sanctions.
In the meantime our rangers continue to be engaged in deadly fire-fights by increasingly bold and sophisticated poaching syndicates. The use of night vision equipment by these gangs is now commonplace, removing one key advantage once held by the forces of law and order. Increasingly we are compelled to turn to ever more expensive solutions: more trained manpower, drones, satellite tagging, de-horning of rhinos and the list goes on.
Yet the law remains outdated, ineffective and, frankly, a national disgrace. Perhaps the send-off packages for our last lot of MPs really were more important after all?
This war, and it is a war, will be ultimately be won by the dual approach of increasing the risks faced by the poachers on the one hand, whilst diminishing probable rewards on the other.
A poacher needs to know that he has a good chance of being caught if he tries to kill an elephant. He needs to understand that when he is caught he will suffer heavy penalties including long periods in prison. More....