KWS celebrates 'breakthrough' removal from ivory trade list

elephant ivory

14 pieces of ivory weighing 58kgs and valued at Sh5.8 million impounded by KWS officers in Chogoria, Tharaka-Nithi County on Nov 28, 2017. FILE PHOTO | NMG

The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has termed the country's removal from a United Nations agency's wildlife trafficking list a victory despite fierce opposition from lobby groups over the move.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) approved the decision to remove Kenya from a group of eight countries leading as source and transit points for illegal ivory, rhino horn and pangolin scales shipped into Asia.

The move comes two years after the CITES secretariat recommended Kenya be de-listed after concerted efforts in implementation of its National Ivory Action Plan (NIAP) since 2013, a decision opposed by the World Wildlife Fund Organisation (WWF).

"Kenya’s conservation efforts in the last couple of years have paid off...Since entry into the NIAP (National Ivory Action Plan) process in 2013, Kenya has consistently implemented and reported on progress in implementation of her NIAP," a statement released by KWS today says.

WWF, however, insists Kenya is a leading exporter of ivory and that the decision is a blow to global efforts to fight a trade that accounts for the deaths of at least 20,000 elephants every year.

"Kenya and Tanzania are still major exit points for illegal ivory leaving Africa, while China's recent domestic ivory trade ban has yet to yield sufficient results on the ground to reassure observers that they are adequately addressing their role as the largest consumer market,” the lobby group previously said.

Another conservation group, Wildlife Direct, says that 223 suspects were arrested for ivory trafficking between 2016 and 2017, followed by 10 nabbed for trafficking rhino horns.

Kenya had been listed along with neighbours Uganda, Tanzania and Asian countries China, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines and Malaysia as the most notorious countries for elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade.

Elephants are currently considered to be in steady decline while rhinos face extinction.

Pangolins are now classified as the world’s most trafficked wildlife species.