Tour operators and tourist hotel owners want the Kenya government to impose sanctions against Asian countries where trade in animal trophies is rampant.
During a demonstration in Mombasa the businessmen said the government should take drastic action against poachers and traders in elephant tusks and rhino horns.
“If these countries can hang drug dealers, they should equally be made to mete out the same punishment to ivory smugglers and traders,” Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association chairman Mohammed Hersi said.
More demonstrations are planned in Kenya’s major towns as public outrage greets increased poaching of elephants.
Kenya Wildlife Service statistics show that Kenya has lost more than 100,000 elephants and rhinos to poaching in the last two decades.
(Commentary: Let’s protect our wildlife from poaching menace)
“We are calling on the government to seriously review our bilateral trade relations with China, Thailand and even Philipines who are reluctant to stop ivory carving and factories in their countries,” said Mr Hersi.
In a petition to the Coast Provincial Commissioner Samuel Kilele, the association demanded that the government sets up a special unit within the Directorate of Public Prosecution to investigate and prosecute poachers.
“We want poachers and those benefiting from the proceeds of criminal acts against wildlife to be charged under the Economic Crimes Act which provides much heavier penalties,” said Mr Hersi.
Cases of poaching in Tsavo East and West National Parks have increased with unconfirmed reports suggesting more than 40 elephants have been killed in the last nine months.
KWS rangers have also been accused of colluding with poachers in carrying out the illegal exercise.
Police suspect proceeds of the ivory trade are being used to fund terrorism activities. A suspected poacher was last week arrested with more than Sh1.5 million while trying to cross to Tanzania.
The suspect arrested in Mokowe, Lamu was being trailed over the recent killing of 12 elephants in the Tsavo East National Park early last month.
Late last month, a haul of ivory valued at Sh100 million was netted at Mombasa port destined to Indonesia.
In July last year two KWS rangers were arrested for allegedly being part of a gang hunting elephants for tusks and killing wildlife for game meat in Tsavo National Park. Increased poaching has been blamed on the demand for ivory in Middle East and China.
Mombasa Port has been a transit for the animal trophies trade.
A haul of tusks weighing 1.6 tonnes impounded in Sri Lanka last month was found to have passed through the Mombasa port. This has raised concerns over Kenya’s porous borders.
(Read: KWS seizes Sh4m worth of ivory in West Pokot)
Poaching was banned in Kenya in 1989 after the government set ablaze 12 tonnes of ivory leading to a lull in the vice.
Conservationists are under intense pressure to protect the African Bush Elephant and the African Forest Elephant.
A heated debate over whether the international ban on trade in ivory products should be lifted is expected ahead of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Thailand next month.