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National park where rampant poaching thrives as rogue KWS officers go scot free

By Alex Kiprotich Updated Monday, March 31st 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3
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The Rangers now say poaching inside the highly protected Lake Nakuru National Park, which was was established as a rhino sanctuary in 1984, has reduced rhinos to less than 100, and not 200 as stated by KWS bosses.

“If something is not done, we may not have any rhinos in the next few months,” said an officer. The 188 square-kilometre park is guarded by more than 70 rangers who are armed with sophisticated weapons. .

Rangers who spoke to us on condition of anonymity opened up after being assured that they would not be exposed. The rangers are living in fear, after reports started leaking to the media and their seniors started monitoring their calls.

And to avoid the calls, this writer had to deliver a phone and new number to four wardens who agreed to be interviewed. “We all know what is happening but if anyone speaks, you will be bumped off, especially after the disappearance of one of our own,” said one of the game rangers at Nakuru National Park.

Some of the rangers in the rhino squad are specifically there to monitor movements of rhinos and alert the ‘bosses’ who in turn alert the poachers. “We know the untouchables in our group. They always communicate on phone with our seniors,” said the source.

The source said the rangers colluding with senior staff have also taken advantage of KWS directors’ apparent lack of know-how on the animals in the parks.

The ranger said his colleagues who have been recruited in the poaching web have records of the whereabouts of the animals and when to strike. For every rhino killed, the killer is paid Sh50,000.

“This is equivalent to four months’ salary. We are paid Sh14,000 by KWS… do you expect someone to give me an offer of Sh50,000 then I turn it down?” posed the ranger.

But the picture became even grimmer when one senior officer in the rank of Assistant Director agreed to talk to this writer. “The committee in Nairobi perpetuates poaching. Have you seen any warden taken to court over the vice?” he asked. He said those who do not play ball are removed and moved to other parks in far-flung areas.

Evade an ambush

The officer confirmed what the wardens, all interviewed separately by The Standard said; that poachers act like guided missiles. “They are guided to where the animal is and how to evade any ambush laid down,” said the officer.

A warden told us how a group of poachers killed a rhino and as they were planning  an ambush, an Assistant Director called off the operation. This was perhaps to let the poachers escape. And even after the poachers escaped the dragnet, the same official stopped the operation, claiming the sniffer dog was tired. “It was later discovered the tusks were metres away, in  a house where the sniffer dog was leading the operation team to. It was evident the Assistant Director was monitoring our work to alert poachers on how to escape,” said the source. The source made a startling revelation that poachers were just “fictional characters” moulded by KWS personnel to conceal their actions. “It is the rogue personnel who are poachers. There is no one from outside – apart from the buyers and those who ferry the tusks,” said the officer.

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