By Michael Wesonga
Chief Warder Joel Kanda has called on Parliament to fast-track implementation of the 2011 Wildlife Bill after catching five men with game meat from the endangered Sitatuga species. Mr. Kanda, who is a wildlife specialist in charge of Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties, spoke to The Standard after arresting 5 people in around Samoei Primary School found in possession of 10Kg of Sitatunga meat.
He explained that they made an arrest following a tip off from the public. Mr Kanda added that they were following leads on one other suspect.
“We are pursuing one suspect who managed to escape but I would love to urge the Kenyan Judiciary to treat crimes against wildlife like any other serious offences,” Kanda said.
Kanda stated that 90 per cent of Kenya’s tourists visit to have a feel of the wildlife and thus appealed on the courts to consider the real worth of the animals.
“Why would someone who has assaulted a cow be charged Sh200, 000 bail whereas and that of wildlife Sh30, 000, yet the latter is our single largest foreign exchange earner?” he questioned.
He said Nandi is believed to have the highest population of Sitatunga in the country with an estimated 150 of the 250 found across the country.
Sitatunga is a rare species of aquatic antelopes on the verge of extinction from poaching activities.Unfortunately, the animals live in an unprotected area and share a common habitat with humans.
The Chief expressed dismay that the wildlife bill, first introduced since 2007, had stalled for five years. The Bill provides for the protection, conservation, sustainable use and management of wildlife in Kenya; and for all other matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
“We are still using the outdated Cap 376 developed immediately after independence from the colonial times yet many things have changed over the years,” he said.
He urged the county government to tap on the valuable resource to boost tourism activities in the region that is still lagging.
As a precautionary measure he urged residents living near the swamps to avoid planting close to swamps land to avoid human-Sitaunga conflict.
“We are also likely to witness movement of this animals to avoid the flooding the banks of the swamp to safer grounds, they should therefore protect them,” he appealed.
He further cautioned them from eating game meat since the animals are not treated for the diseases like domestic animals and could therefore be carriers of deadly diseases.