Cabinet forms special team to curb poaching

By Stephen Makabila

NAIROBI; KENYA: The Cabinet has formed a specialised security team to be deployed in all national parks and game reserves, to fight increased poaching.

Reports of the large number of elephants and rhinos killed by poachers recently, shocked a Cabinet meeting President Kibaki chaired yesterday.

Besides the specialised security team, whose aim is to protect elephants and rhinos from poachers, Forestry and Wildlife Minister Noah Wekesa has been directed to take immediate action to eliminate poaching in the national parks and private conservancies.

The Cabinet also directed the minister to flush out all herders grazing their livestock in all national parks. The move comes amid fears over the future of the elephant population owing to increased poaching in recent months. Last year, Kenya lost approximately 360 elephants to poaching, a figure that rose from 289 the previous year, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). In December last year, poachers in the Northern Circuit killed seven endangered rhinos, 10 days after the KWS concluded the wildlife census.

Isiolo County Commissioner Wanyama Musiambo had then said killing of seven rhinos at Lewa conservancies and three more elephants within the circuit was alarming and called for urgent measures to end poaching. Last month, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) employees seized 638 pieces of ivory worth Sh100 million at Mombasa port.

KRA officials believe the two-tonne haul could have originated from Tanzania since some gunny bags bore logos of Tanzanian companies. It also emerged the ivory haul was linked to the same people behind another stash seized in Hong Kong, China. KWS revealed documents seized in the two incidents involved the same exporter, clearing agent and consignee. KWS Director William Kiprono had earlier told The Standard on Saturday that the exporter was Mwalilo General Trading Company, while clearing agent was Three-Way Freighters with the consignee being P T Kundur Karyacom in Indonesia, also involved in the Hong Kong seizure.

Ivory trade is banned under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora that is due to hold its next meeting in March, a date that Omondi said has in the past triggered a rise in poaching.