By Seth Augenstein
Poaching has reached a fever pitch not seen since the 1980s. Studies recently have shown that as many as a fifth of the elephants of Africa were killed in a three-year period, and other exotic species are being killed for use as medicines and trophies. But putting away the poachers has proven difficult, for lack of hard evidence.
The Kenyan government is unveiling a new weapon to fight against illegal hunters and wildlife criminals, they have now announced.
The Kenya Wildlife Service will formally commission a new forensic and genetic laboratory on Friday – a long-planned facility costing millions which is expected to help turn the tide against the wave of crime, they announced on their Facebook page.
The Wildlife Forensic and Genetics Laboratory cost $172 million U.S. dollars, and was a collaborative project in the works for years, according to Xinhua. Government officials are pointing to the laboratory as a way to give teeth to a new wildlife protection law enacted last year, according to a report by Global Travel Industry News. Although there have been some prosecutions, the demand for exotic specimens such as rhino horns, elephant tusks, animal skins, bird feathers, and even small pets, has threatened the biodiversity of eastern Africa, they said.
The world’s largest herbivores – including elephants, rhinos and other large species – are threatened by continual hunting for meat and souvenirs, according to a study release earlier this week.
Officials told Xinhua that prosecutions of poachers have historically proved unsuccessful because of a lack of evidence. The laboratory is going to provide the hard proof, they reportedly said.
William Kiprono, the Ag. Director General of the Kenya Wildlife Service, said in a February press conference that poaching had reached a crisis level not seen since the 1980s. The new lab will help prosecutions to stop the trade, he said.
“Very soon, this lab will aid in evidence gathering and securing convictions in courts of law,” Kiprono said.