By Jason Straziuso
An elephant orphanage in Kenya is seeing an upsurge in orphaned elephants brought there because of the poaching crisis occurring across Africa, the founder said Wednesday. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, who runs the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi National Park, said Kenya must pass stricter laws to punish those who poach elephants for their ivory tusks. Sheldrick said it would be economic sabotage if Kenya doesn't prevent poaching deaths, because of the tourism it will lose.
"Unfortunately the demand for ivory in the Far East, particularly China, has pushed the price of ivory up too far," Sheldrick said as a dozen orphaned elephants bathed in dry mud nearby. For village residents who have little earning potential, the lure of a poaching payday can be tough to resist, she said.
That's why Kenya must enact "very draconian sentencing" for poaching crimes, so that it's not worth it for villagers to kill elephants or rhinos, she said. The Kenya Wildlife Service has long urged Kenyan lawmakers to increase the penalty for poaching, but so far the penalties have remained low. Will parliament pass stricter laws? Even Sheldrick is not sure.
"One has to hope. If they don't Kenya is going to lose their elephants and rhinos," she said, adding later: "Everyone is pleading with the Kenyan government to enact strict punishments against poachers."
Thousands of elephants are being killed across Africa every year by poachers who sell ivory tusks to buyers in Asia, where an increasing demand is buying ivory trinkets as a sign of prestige. Conservationists warn that unless the demand is curtailed, poachers will wipe out Africa's elephants and rhinos, who are killed for their horns. More....