By Michael Gachanja
The weekly killing of East Africa’s elephants and rhinos adds up to a death toll that demands action, not more words, hand-wringing or international publicity that focuses on the authorities’ helplessness to end the bloodshed, rather than actually ending it.International media stories and interventions by prominent local and foreign dignitaries, such as Hilary Clinton, help build a global platform of public opinion on which conservation campaigns can be founded, but many of the answers to poaching require action and attitude changes from within Kenya.
Poaching is a global issue, albeit complicated by national boundaries, murky middlemen and illegal international trade, but there is still a need to think in national terms, explore what is hindering our efforts to curb this escalation and devise ways of reversing the situation.
Internally, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) is the primary agency tasked with combating poaching in the country. But this should not be misconstrued to mean that it is the only agency. An effective anti-poaching effort requires alliances. These alliances are not currently coalescing because:
KWS has a defensive attitude when it comes to dealing with the Private Sector/Civil Society in terms of developing partnerships, particularly in the context of poaching. One consequence of the defensive attitude is that information on poaching is held back within KWS. Yet open shared information indicating hot spots, trends, targeted species, etc. does not bring criticism. Rather it cements anti poaching alliances and partnerships. Good open and transparent information is therefore a must.
There is no formalized enforcement agency collaborating with KWS as an equal partner with the Police, the Army, Immigration and Customs, yet much of the East Tsavo poaching is due to illegal immigrants for example.
KWS and other institutions such as Kenya Forest Service (KFS) need to avoid agency conflict and rivalry. This is particularly important when they are neighbours in protected areas.
KWS’s ability to discuss and partner with local communities in anti-poaching efforts is inadequate and needs revitalizing. More....