By Wolfgang H. Thome
The conservation fraternity in Kenya had reasons to welcome Christmas as news broke yesterday in Nairobi that President Kenyatta had assented to the new Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill, making it the law of the land with immediate effect.
For years had the country’s conservationists demanded that harsher penalties be imposed as often poachers, when nabbed, were released on bond or bail almost immediately as they faced minimal fines and often short prison terms, which led to a sharp increase in poaching across the country with hundreds of elephants and dozens of rhino killed.
Now, under the new law, poachers, their financiers and the traders will face substantially higher fines, confiscation of property and long prison terms, but most significantly will those nabbed at airports, in possession of blood ivory or other prohibited wildlife items, face fines of not less than a million Kenya Shillings and prison terms of not less than five years. Many smugglers have been caught over the past years at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the majority of them Chinese citizens.
‘I hope the next one caught will now be given an exemplary sentence, to pay the million shillings fine, or more, and be sent down for the full 5 years, or more, depending on how much ivory they carried. Only when we start to seriously put them away will the message take hold that when you come to Kenya, or when you transit in Kenya, DO NOT CARRY CONTRABAND. That is the only language they will understand and to protect our wildlife we need harsh sentences.
Any magistrate who now fails to impose both fines and custodial sentences must be hauled before the disciplinary committees and investigated for possible links with poaching syndicates. Let that be therefore a warning to the smugglers and to the lower judicial cadres’ wrote a regular Nairobi based source when passing the information that the long awaited amendements to the law have now been put into effect.
A full overview of the new law can be found here by clicking on the link below: http://www.kenyalaw.org/kl/fileadmin/pdfdownloads/bills/2013/WildlifeCon...
Perhaps some belated relief for Kenya’s beleaguered wildlife on Christmas? Time will tell.