Politics and policy

Elephant poachers go hi-tech to stay ahead of rangers

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Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers display elephant tusks and rhino horns intercepted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi in July 2009. Regional efforts have been stepped up to fight illegal hunters, but the challenge is becoming bigger every day as poaching becomes more sophisticated. Photo/ REUTERS

Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) rangers display elephant tusks and rhino horns intercepted at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi in July 2009. Regional efforts have been stepped up to fight illegal hunters, but the challenge is becoming bigger every day as poaching becomes more sophisticated. Photo/ REUTERS 

By STEVE MBOGO

Posted  Tuesday, October 19  2010 at  00:00

The trends of poaching in Kenya over the last three years are illustrated by a steep graph that defies gravity.

The number of elephant deaths in that period has grown five times.

The seizure of ivory and rhino horns coming from Kenya and eastern Africa region is at a record high, even before the year ends.

Data from various sources show that while 47 elephants died in 2007 due to poaching, the number rose to 145 in 2008 and to 216 in 2009.

This year, 28,000 tonnes of ivory have been seized.

The irony is that the slaughter of elephant is increasing at a time when technological advancement can make it easier to track and deter poachers.

Training of game rangers has also become more sophisticated just as the weapons and equipment they use.

Sophisticated weapons

Mr Bonaventure Ebayi, the director of the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF), a regional anti-poaching initiative, said poachers and traffickers of illicit game trophies were keeping pace with technology and were using more sophisticated weapons than the game rangers.

“Ivory and rhino horn poachers and traders have become so sophisticated that the training of our wildlife rangers in combat, intelligence gathering and analysis and the use of modern equipment must also be improved,” said Mr Ebayi in an interview.

The Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) came into being after the Lusaka Agreement on Co-operative Enforcement Operations directed at illegal trade in wild fauna and flora was signed by eight eastern and southern African countries meeting in Lusaka, Zambia in December 1992.

Since then, regional efforts have been deepened to defeat poachers but it appears the challenge is becoming bigger every day.

Crime in Africa has become sophisticated and more vicious and it appears the same has filtered to wildlife crime.

“We require improved capacity building in intelligence collection, investigations and in making follow-ups to defeat the trade because the consequences on animals, tourism and the environment are too high,” said Mr Ebayi.

The Lusaka Agreement Task Force Operates from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) headquarters in Nairobi.

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