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Wildlife groups want poaching declared national disaster

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Updated Wed, January 23rd 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Kiundu Waweru

They observe vice has reached unprecented level and should be declared a disaster to step up efforts to protect wildlife

Elephants, like human beings, mourn their dead. Indeed, many animal lovers consider elephants ‘gentle giants’ for the tender care to their young ones.

Kenya is one of the few countries that is home to the tusked animals. The giant animals attract thousands of tourists from different countries to Kenya.

Sadly, elephants, which are part of our prized heritage, are under siege as poachers kill them in droves.  Dozens of elephants have been killed in the past months raising fears if measures are not taken, the animals may soon end up like dinosaurs.

Yesterday, conservationists and wildlife lovers hit the streets demanding that poaching be declared a national disaster.

The protest called by Kenyans United Against Poaching (Kuapo) was flagged off at Uhuru Garden. Protesters marched to Uhuru Park waving banners with diverse messages including “No Wildlife, No Tourism.”

Social value

At Uhuru Park, the protestors declared a National Elephant Mourning Day, followed by speeches where participants petitioned President Kibaki to declare poaching a national disaster.

“The kind of poaching we are seeing is a national disaster,” said Dr Manu Chandaria, industrialist and philanthropist. “We must take wildlife as part of us. Animals are our heritage.”

The activists called urged Kenyans to take care of elephants because of their economic and social value.

Elephants are one of the Big Five animals, which are a major tourist attraction. They contribute about 12 per cent to annual tourism income. Besides direct income, the animals, now threatened by poachers, help thousands of Kenyans earn a living in tourism.

Former Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) director and Kenya Permanent Representative at Unep Nehemiah Rotich said tourism losses also affect five Kenyans not employed in the sector.

“Factor in other aspects like forex trade, mama mboga, who supplies vegetables to tourist hotels and you realise we must put our house in order,” he said.

Rhino horns

Mr Rotich said Kenya’s elephants and rhinos are under great siege. The vice is fuelled by a multi-billion dollar ivory industry in Asia, with elephants and rhinos being killed in protected areas, including private conservancies.

Rotich said the price of ivory and rhino horns continues to rise. One kilogramme of ivory can cost from Sh35,000 to Sh75,000.

“This means one elephant felled can fetch up to Sh1 million,” he noted.

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