By David Kamau
Poaching is an increasingly rampant problem both in Kenya and across Africa and has seen an exponential increase over the past few years. In Kenya, the problem is particularly acute among the elephant and rhino populations who are prized for their ivory tusks and horns. Their decimation represents not only the depletion of a precious and irreplaceable wildlife but a threat to the livelihoods of the tens of thousands of ordinary Kenyans who rely on the tourist industry they generate.
According to Kenyan MP Chachu Ganya, the elephant population declined from 160,000 to 16,000 between the 1960s and 1989 due to poaching.
Though this decline was slowed after the international ban on the ivory trade, elephants are being slaughtered at an alarmingly rate again. In the first five months of 2013 an estimated 117 elephants were lost. Between the 23rd & 29th May 2013 alone, seven rhinos were killed in Kenya for their horns, bringing the total death toll up to 24 rhinos killed in the first five months of 2013.
If the killings of rhino continue at this rate, total losses for 2013 will equate to around 55-60, almost double the number killed in 2012. Given that Kenya’s remaining rhino population is estimated at around 500-1000 individuals, this constitutes an immediate and mortal threat to the survival of the species in the world. The fact that all of these rhinos were poached on reserves specially created for their protection highlights the extreme difficulties faced in combating the ivory trade. In many respects it is also a self perpetuating problem, the harder it becomes to poach ivory the higher the price and greater the incentive for criminal gangs. More....