‘Gang of Eight’ under pressure to save elephant from extinction

By Juma Kwayera

Kenya, China and six other countries face worldwide criticism for fuelling or failing to stop elephant poaching and ivory trade.

This ‘Gang of Eight’ was at the focus of last month’s 16th Conference of Parties’ summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) in Hong Kong, Thailand. They are accused of having lax laws in combating the crimes. In Kenya, criticism has been directed at Chinese nationals believed to be fuelling poaching.

Beijing’s defence

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However, speaking to The Standard On Saturday, Chinese embassy spokesman, Mr Shifan Wu, exonerated Beijing from blame. Beijing, he says, has embarked on a partnership with Nairobi to enable the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) confront poaching more robustly. He says the wildlife agency lacks the technology, personnel and equipment to combat organised crime.

“The poachers are not Chinese who live in Kenya,” explains Wu. “The people who are arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Mombasa seaport are usually on transit. The people arrested at the ports are ‘small fish’. The real merchants control the trade remotely and are very dangerous. China and Kenya must collaborate to crush these syndicates.”

Other members of the Gang of Eight are Tanzania and Uganda (source countries), Malaysia and Philippines (conduits) and Thailand (market). Interestingly, over the past two or so years, China has impounded more consignments of ivory at its ports than Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It is against this backdrop that conservationists are appealing to the Chief Justice Willy Mutunga to consider more punitive penalties against people convicted of poaching and ivory smuggling. In their petition dated March 30, the 13 organisations want the court to review recent rulings to give stiffer penalties.

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“We also request that you examine on-going cases with the aim of ensuring that these cases are insightfully decided and repeat offenders rightfully punished,” says the petition, a copy of which The Standard On Saturday has.

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Kenya Wildlife Service court elephant ivory trade