By George Kebaso
Attempts to quantify the impact of poaching on the country’s economy has usually failed to yield tangible figures. The tourism sector is worth billions of shillings but those who comment on the issue refuse to put the exact cost of the poaching menace. Recent statistics show that hundreds of elephants and rhinos have been killed for their precious tusks and horns, but the exact losses to the tourism sector is not known.
Former Environment PS Ali Mohammed agrees that the economic loss from poaching could be running into billions of shillings every year. “We can’t quantify the amount of losses in monetary terms, but if you sit down to calculate what it means from the point of entry of a single foreign visitor to the country to their destination, those sums will run into hundreds of thousands of shillings,” Mohamed told Business Hub.
Attorney General Githu Muigai observed that illegal international trade in wildlife commodities is also a threat to human health and the environment in general. “It contributes to the loss of whole species; it results in revenue loss for governments and undermines the success of international environmental agreements by circumventing agreed rules and procedures,” Muigai told the Executive Level Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Committee (ECEC) Meeting co-hosted by the UNEP and Interpol.
He agreed with the view that the illicit trade could also be linked to terrorism and further providing vast sums of money to criminal syndicates that, in the long run, destabilise international and national security. Stakeholders in the tourism sector have criticised the country’s legal systems that are lenient on poachers and wants tougher measures to be enacted in order to curb the illegal business.
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is pushing for life imprisonment of elephant and rhino poachers as a deterrent measure to protect the two endangered species. KWS director William Kiprono says killing of wildlife especially the big two in the county is alarming and requires stiff penalties to the perpetrators. He observes that the killing of the two endangered species for their valued tusks is an economic sabotage and punitive measures should be meted on criminals involved in the vice.
“The only way to protect these endangered species; elephants and rhinos is to send poachers to complete their remaining years of their life in prison. This will deter others from engaging in poaching,” said Kiprono, who has been vocal on the matter. His arguments are based on the background of the high foreign income earned from tourism which stands at about Sh127.5 billion with 80 per cent coming from the wildlife sub-sector.
Locally, the tourism sector has employed 300,000 Kenyans, and Kiprono notes that weakening it will have a negative impact on the economy. The Wildlife Bill proposes fines of between Sh10.2 million and Sh17 million against poachers, but the KWS director thinks otherwise. “Sh17 million is not stiff punishment for economic saboteurs such as poachers. We are pushing for a life imprisonment,” said Kiprono. More....