Industry wants review of relations with Far East States over poaching
By - | February 8th 2013
By Macharia Kamau
The tourism industry wants Kenya to review its relations with Far East countries for their stand on trade in ivory. These include China, Thailand, and Philippines.
The players say continued support of trade in ivory by the Far East nations is threatening to wipe out elephants and rhinos.
These are key attractions for tourists and in turn essential for the industry. In a joint protest note on Tuesday, tourism industry associations and wildlife welfare lobbies noted that Kenya’s core attraction is in under attack.
They want the Government to relook at its relations with the three countries where ivory trade legalised. Countries like China have in the recent years assumed importance as key development partners for Kenya and generally Africa.
They offer a big market for ivory. A kilo can fetch about $7 000 (Sh650,000). Elephant tusks and rhino horns are used to make ornaments. They are also used in alternative medicine.
“We call on the Government to review our bilateral relations with China, Thailand, and even Philippines that are reluctant to stop ivory carvings and factories in their backyards,” said the protest note signed by officials from Kenya Association of Hotel Keepers and Caterers, Kenya Association of Tour Operators, and the Mombasa and Coast Tourist Association.
Other signatories to the note are the Wildlife Clubs of Kenya and Africa Network for Animal Welfare
“If these countries can hang drug dealers, they should equally be made to mete out the same punishment to ivory smugglers and traders.”
“Our message to the Far East is, please leave the rhino alone, its horn has no medicinal value nor is it an aphrodisiac.”
Prosecution of offenders
The organizations in an eight- point plan to help check on poaching said the situation has gotten out of hand. Other than a review of the bilateral relations with China and other Asian countries that support ivory trade, the industry wants a special office set up in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions to specifically handle poaching cases.
They also want suspects charged under the Economic Crimes Act that has harsher penalties. Kenya currently has some 30 000 elephants, which are threatened by the boom in ivory trade. In the poaching crisis of the late 1980s, about 100,000 were killed.
Industry players express fears that if the current situation is not checked, elephants could be wiped out. “All of these (the 30, 000 elephants) could be long before Vision 2030 arrives and tourists will not come here to see elephants in zoos – they can do that at home,” said the note.
“In the Mara, over 90 of the big old bull elephants have been killed in recent months. Without the big old tuskers, we lose a vital tourist attraction and there are no good breeding bulls left to improve the genetic diversity of the elephants,” they said.”
There no serious effort to arrest and charge those involved. Nobody has been convicted.”
The industry also wants the Kenya Wildlife Service to be facilitated to fight the crime.
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