Economy

New wildlife law sparks fears over status of sport hunting ban

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Kenya Wildlife Service officer in charge of Coast Simon Gitau inspects some of the 638 pieces of ivory impounded at the Port of Mombasa on transit to Indonesia January 16, 2013. GIDEON MAUNDU

Summary

  • The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013) legalises the killing of excess wild animals and harvesting of wild game for a range of products.
  • Kenya banned sport hunting — killing of wildlife for recreation and trophy collection — in 1977 after it led to dwindling game numbers due to excessive hunting.

Conservationists have sounded alarm bells on provisions in the newly enacted wildlife management law, which appear to create loopholes for sport hunting.

The Wildlife Conservation and Management Act (2013) legalises the killing of excess wild animals and harvesting of wild game for a range of products.

“We are opposed to any form of cropping. It has been tried before and failed because it is prone to corruption, mismanagement and abuse. It is likely that owners of game ranches may crop and cull animals beyond the list provided for in the Act,” said Africa Network for Animal Welfare (ANAW) executive director Josphat Ngonyo.

The new law, assented to by President Uhuru Kenyatta last month, further provides for local processing and sale of wildlife trophies from animals that have been cropped. Although it retains the ban on sport hunting and bush meat trading, the Act — which came into force the previous Friday, January 10 —it provides for culling and cropping of surplus wildlife in game ranches for their products and trophies.

READ: New law sets life sentence and Sh20m fine for poachers

Kenya banned sport hunting — killing of wildlife for recreation and trophy collection — in 1977 after it led to dwindling game numbers due to excessive hunting.

Trophy hunting is legally offered in Tanzania, South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. However, ANAW says experience from Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Liberia shows consumptive utilisation of wildlife has no benefits to conservation efforts and economic empowerment of locals.

Players in the wildlife industry now fear that the new law, which commoditises wild animals, may be an attempt at reintroducing sport hunting through the backdoor.

“Cropping in itself cannot be profitable without an industry for processing wildlife products in Kenya and we cannot have such an industry without sport hunting. It would be like having a livestock production system without a meat processor or a tannery,” said Laikipia Wildlife Forum executive director Mordecai Ogada.

The fresh wildlife legislation defines cropping as ‘harvesting of wildlife for a range of products’ such as meat, horns and hides. Culling is defined as ‘selective removal of wildlife based on ecological scientific principles for management.’

Experts fear these provisions open a window for poachers to carry out their trade under the guise of cropping and culling as population control strategies.

The new Wildlife Act provides stiff penalties for poachers and dealers in illegal animal trophies who now face life imprisonment and a fine of more than Sh20 million.

Schedule 10 of the Act lists the animals that can be cropped and sold live as crocodiles, tortoises, chameleons, frogs, lizard, ostriches, pigeons, doves, ducks and guinea fowls.

Snakes can only be farmed for display, venom extraction and can be exported live for breeding purposes.

WildlifeDirect chief executive officer Paula Kahumbu said the Act was ‘non-reformist’ and accused legislators of focusing on hefty compensation for victims of attack by wild animals rather than promoting sustainable conservation policies.

Dr Kahumbu said even though Kenya’s Big Five — lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino — are not on the list of animals that can be cropped, it would be difficult to monitor the policy.

“Kenya doesn’t have the capacity to manage cropping. This will require financial and other resources to effectively monitor such a policy,” said Dr Kahumbu.

Those found in possession of or dealing in game trophies without a licence face a fine of Sh1 million or a jail term of not less than five years.

The Wildlife Foundation chairman Ed Loosli said translocation of wild animals should be considered in cases of population control rather than culling.

“Transport and translocation are always available if wildlife numbers get too great and I am very concerned that legal culling is being promoted as a backdoor way to reintroduce big-game hunting in Kenya,” said Mr Loosli.

However, Michael Gachanja, the executive director at East African Wild Life Society (EAWLS), said he supports consumptive use of wild animals ‘provided it is managed well.’

Kenya is facing increased poaching which threatens safari visits, a key component of tourism which attracted 1.16 million holidaymakers last year and earned the economy Sh96 billion.

According to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) data, 137 elephants had been killed in the first six month of 2013 compared to the 384 in 2012 up from 289 a year earlier. It showed 19 rhinos were lost to trophy poachers in 2012 and 29 a year earlier.

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