Politics and policy

Lewa patron urges stiffer penalty for poachers

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Wildlife conservationist Ian Craig. Photo/File

Wildlife conservationist Ian Craig. Photo/File 

By JAMES KARIUKI

Posted  Tuesday, April 23  2013 at  18:44

Renowned wildlife conservationist Ian Craig has urged the government to intensify law enforcement efforts and invest heavily in protecting elephants and rhinos amidst the highest death toll in the past year.

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He asked Kenya to hand stiffer jail sentences to discourage trade in ivory and rhino horns. This, he said, would deter the ongoing mass slaughter of the endangered wild animals.

“The solution to stopping the killing of elephant and rhino rest solely in reducing the end value of horn and ivory,” said Mr Craig in a statement.

The founding patron of the 62,000-acre Lewa Conservancy called on governments in Africa where the endangered species flourish as well as Asian and European markets where the trade in ivory and horns is booming to share information on poaching to curb the menace.

Lewa Conservancy board chairman Michael Joseph and chief executive Mike Watson said that concerted efforts by the government on policy and enforcement must be geared towards a no-nonsense approach towards poaching.

Mr Joseph called on African governments and people to declare a “total war” on poaching. Mr Watson said gains in conservation and successful fight against poaching could be achieved by looking for ways to include communities in protecting wildlife while ensuring they also see ‘tangible’ benefits from their efforts in conservation.

Mr Craig said Africa must work together in seeking a resolution for mutual benefit at the international level where countries advocating trade in game trophies and those opposed to it share a common message — that poaching is hurting the world’s well-being.

“Let us all (nations) ensure that the current ban on trade on wildlife-related products made from body parts of endangered species is enforced across the board with no exceptions,” he said in his three-point solution on poaching.

“Make the message to all that it is distasteful to use wildlife products, make it socially unacceptable in every household and every culture.”

The conservationist, who has dedicated his life to conservation of wild animals in Kenya and the world, described the upsurge in rhino deaths as a “perfect storm” sweeping across the world.

It is testing the preparedness in dealing with a calamity threatening to eliminate certain wildlife species for commercial gain.

With only 5,000 rhinos remaining in the world, ongoing killing spree, Mr Craig said, Kenya should expect the most complex decade in the history and evolution of the species as demand and prices rise.

The good returns offered by the black markets have provided incentive to well-armed poachers. They are well-connected enough to enable them penetrate national and private wildlife sanctuaries.