KWS says poachers have killed 137 elephants, 24 rhinos this year


Elephants killed by poachers. Kenya Wildlife Service director William Kiprono says poachers have infiltrated conservation agencies fuelling trade in trophies. Photo/FILE

Poachers have killed at least 137 elephants and 24 rhinos this year amid global concerns over trade in game trophies.

Kenya Wildlife Service director William Kiprono said half of the endangered species were killed in the Tsavo conservancy area where poachers masquerade as herders from adjacent ranches.

“Poaching incidents are still too high. Since January we have lost 137 elephants and 24 rhinos,” said Mr Kiprono, blaming lenient penalties for increased poaching.

“A fine of Sh30,000 cannot deter poachers from engaging in the illegal activity which earns them thousands of dollars,” he said.

EDITORIAL: Increase fines in order to eradicate poaching menace

There are about 40,000 elephants and 1,025 rhinos in Kenya.

The KWS director said rangers had so far arrested 123 suspected poachers, recovering 5,842kg of ivory and rhino horns, 22 firearms and 1,141 bullets.

Other African countries have also witnessed an increase in poaching with cases of smuggling of raw and cured ivory across ports and borders on the rise.

Poachers have also infiltrated wildlife protection agencies. The KWS has interdicted 32 employees ranging from assistant directors to rangers to pave the way for investigation over collusion with poachers.

Mr Kiprono said KWS would soon recruit 1,000 rangers after securing funding from the government.

He said the agency had spent Sh13.2 million on equipment to prevent animals straying into settlements in a bid to stem human-wildlife conflict.

Wild animals have killed at least 106 people and 520 others injured this year, forcing the government to pay compensation of Sh47 million.

The equipment placed under the Problem Animal Management Unit include a land cruiser van, tents, GPS, computers and binoculars.

As a result, Mr Kiprono said incidents of human-wildlife conflict had reduced from 1,438 between January and May last year to 1,323 in the same period this year.

The Cabinet last week approved a Bill for presentation to Parliament, which will see those found guilty of poaching jailed for seven years and fined Sh1 million.

Mr Kiprono was speaking to journalists at Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa on the sidelines of the ninth KWS annual wardens and scientists meeting.

Participants shared ideas and experiences on challenges facing the wildlife sector.