|KWS rangers at Tsavo East National Park look at an elephant killed by poachers and its tusks removed recently. Poachers are now using poisoned arrows to kill elephants and rhinos in a move aimed at avoiding detection. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]|
By RENSON MNYAMWEZI
KENYA: Four elephants have died of arrow wounds in the Tsavo Conservation area (TCA) in Taita-Taveta County.
At the same time KWS said it is treating four elephants every week shot with poisoned arrows by suspected poachers in the ecosystem.
The conservation body said poachers had now resorted to using arrows to kill elephants and rhinos in local ranches bordering Tsavo.
TCA Assistant Director Robert Obrein disclosed that poachers were now hiring professional hunters to kill wildlife along the Voi River.
“KWS doctors are using enormous resources in treating injured elephants and this is not good for the country. Relevant stakeholders should all join hands in dealing with the poaching menace,” he said.
“It has become very difficult for poachers to use rifles because of intensified surveillance. They are now using professional hunters to waylay wildlife along the Voi River and kill them,” Obrein said.
The remarks come at a time when the Government is still grappling with widespread cases of poaching among other wildlife-related crimes in the country.
Obrein was speaking at a wildlife conservation meeting in Voi town yesterday convened by the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association (KWCA), an umbrella body of all the conservancies in Kenya.
“Poaching is real and everything possible should be done to eradicate the menace,” he noted.
The director cited the worst hit area by poaching as Ngutuni and Voi River. KWCA CEO Dickson Kaelo said if nothing were done to protect elephants in the next 10 years, there would be no wildlife in the country.
“We are losing wildlife due to rampant poaching and encroachment on its habitat. Communities are killing wildlife with a belief that they are not benefiting from the wildlife resource. Wildlife is our only gold and cannot be re-created,” he noted.
Kaelo said in the last decades, more than 60 per cent of wildlife in the park had been lost to poaching, human conflict and loss and destruction of habitat.
At the same time Obrein said rangers had been dispatched to affected areas to hunt down three suspected poachers believed to be behind the spate of wildlife-related crimes in the region.
Boda boda operators
“We are conducting a massive ground and air operation to hunt down runway armed bandits. We are calling on members of the public to volunteer information that can lead to the arrest of the poachers,” he said.
The director accused boda boda operation of complicating the war against poaching activities in the region.
He further said poachers had devised new strategies of advancing their illegal activities by colluding with unscrupulous boda boda operators to perpetrate poaching activities.
“The poachers are now hiring boda boda operators to transport them to the bush to kill wildlife. The operators later carry the bandits and the trophies from the scene of crime to Maungu and Mackinoon townships along the Nairobi-Mombasa highway for transportation,” noted Obrein.
He warned boda boda operators involved in poaching that they would be arrested and prosecuted.
“Bandits use boda boda to commit their heinous crimes and later kill them to conceal evidence,” he added.
The director blamed a recent murder of a boda boda operator in Maungu Township on poachers. “The deceased was told by his colleagues not to carry the suspected poachers but ignored. His body was later found near Maungu town by members of the public,” noted Obrein.
“The second phase of the massive security operation should start immediately to rid the area of illegal herders, poachers, arms and aliens who are responsible for wildlife related crimes in the area,” added Obrein.
Laxity among KWS personnel had also been blamed for the escalation in poaching activities in the region.
At least 10 KWS personnel had been interdicted for allegedly being secret agents of poachers in TCA.
Among those interdicted include an acting senior warden, a company commander, five platoon commanders and three rangers.
According to the wildlife conservation body, the interdicted security personnel had been frustrating the war against poaching in both Tsavo East and West national parks.