By PASCAL MWANDAMBO
KWS involves regular police and GSU officers to deal with poachers said to use sophisticated arms
Kenya Wildlife Service and various security agencies have launched a combined drive to curb game poaching and insecurity in the vast Tsavo Conservation Area (TCA).
This follows a worrying poaching trend that has seen tens of elephants killed by poachers in the recent past, and also reports that most poachers wield sophisticated weapons in their illegal business.
And with reports that some poachers enter into ranches or national reserves as livestock herders to execute their mission, Voi DC Khamasi Shivogho says a massive ground and air operation has been launched to drive away all illegal herders in TCA and all ranches in Taita Taveta.
“This time round, we are not talking but acting tough on criminals masquerading as herders and compromising security in the park and ranches. We have brought in aircrafts from both the police and KWS headquarters in Nairobi that are being used by a combined force of GSU, KWS and police officers to deal with the poachers,” Shivogho said.
According to KWS senior assistant director in charge of TCA Julius Kimani, the runaway security in the ranches has led to an upsurge in poaching outside protected areas. He says about 90 per cent of the elephants in the conservation area migrate to the vast ranches during the rainy season exposing them to senseless poachers masquerading as herders.
Mr Shivogho cautioned local ranchers against entering into new lease agreements with people they do not know very well as they could compromise security in the area.
TCA covers Tsavo East and West, 27 Taita-Taveta County ranches and Kyullu and Kitui South national reserves and has borne the brunt of the poaching especially in the ranches where poachers pretend to be herders.
While poaching inside the parks has been put in check due to KWS security enforcement, the conservation parastatal has a hard task enforcing security in the ranches where they have jurisdiction over game but not the land where the animals roam.
According to John Mlamba, the executive coordinator of Taita Taveta Wildlife Forum, the Government and conservation stakeholders must flush out all illegal herders from Taita Taveta ranches because most of them are feared to be hideouts for criminals involved in poaching both for subsistence and commercial purposes.
“Poaching in and around Tsavo has risen to unprecedented levels and the time to act is now before the tourism potential of the park is ruined by these criminals,” said Mlamba.
Meanwhile, the Coast branch chairperson of Kenya Association of Tour Operators Monika Solanki has asked the Government to intervene and protect the ‘endangered’ elephants.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
According to authorities about 70 per cent of jumbos felled by the criminals’ bullets are those in the privately owned ranches.