By Renson Mnyamwezi and Marion Ndung’u
Poachers have killed at least eight elephants and four rhinos in separate incidents.
The elephants were killed early yesterday and their tusks removed in the Tsavo ecosystem in Taita-Taveta County, while the rhinos were killed at the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Isiolo in a span of a week.
Kenya Wildlife Service and police officers described the slaughter of the jumbos early yesterday as a major setback to Government efforts to protect elephants.
International wildlife protection agencies have blamed local authorities for the upsurge in subsistence and commercial poaching, targeting elephants and rhinos.
Senior KWS officials said inadequate funding coupled with shortage of personnel is to blame for escalation in wildlife killings.
Taita OCPD Samson Kinne said the elephants were killed at Mbale community ranch in Mwatate District when the suspected poachers raided the ranch.
“Security personnel are still pursuing the suspects,” Mr Kinne told The Standard on the telephone yesterday. The police boss, however, referred our reporter to KWS for more details.
Efforts to get the Tsavo Conservation Area Assistant Director Wilson Korir were fruitless.
“I will call you, I’m in a plane,” said a message sent to the reporter.
KWS Director William Kiprono cited population increase as one of factors hindering wildlife and environmental conservation in national parks.
“Poaching has become a serious issue and we are reaching out to communities, especially those bordering parks, to create awareness that wildlife belongs to them and they should effectively participate in conservation efforts for their benefit,” said the director.
Speaking to the Press in Taita-Taveta during a fact-finding mission, Kiprono said the conservation body was under-funded.
“We have asked for additional funds from the Treasury to enable us effectively discharge our mandate. I hope the Government will do something,” said the director.
At the Lewa conservancy, poachers shot dead two female and two male black rhinos bringing the number of rhinos in the park to 71, according to the management.
In a press statement, the conservancy’s Marketing Manager Wanjiku Kinuthia said that although the population of rhinos has increased since 2007, there is grave concern over the future of the animal as a result of poaching.
“In a country where the population (of rhino) is slightly above 600 animals, these incidents are a devastating blow to conservation efforts and show the enormous pressure that these animals are under,” said Ms Kinuthia.
The private conservancy has lost 10 rhinos to poachers in the last three years. Rhino experts have said that the animal is facing the worst crisis in decades with Kenya, Zimbabwe and South Africa facing the most serious poaching.
Lewa’s chief executive Mike Watson has reaffirmed the commitment to conservation despite threats paused by poachers.
“These incidents serve as a constant reminder of the harsh reality and the rapidly increasing threat faced by rhinos,” said Mr Watson.