NAIROBI: One of the good things to come out of the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, USA, is the agreement between the United States and China to impose a total ban on the importation and export of ivory.
Elephant and rhino populations in Kenya, and indeed the entire East African region have drastically gone down as a result of increased demand for ivory in China. This has in turn led to rising incidence of poaching in our national parks. A report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has indicated that East Africa accounts for more than 80 per cent of ivory seizures. The report further says 35,000 elephants are killed in East Africa yearly to satisfy demand for ivory especially in Asia. By 1989, more than 160,000 elephants had been killed in Kenya, leaving only about 7000.
Another report that was released last year by the Save the Elephant Foundation, a lobby group that fights international trade in illegal ivory, showed ivory prices had trebled, leading to increased trade over the last four years.
This period coincides with the entry of China into Africa, ostensibly for trade and development partnerships. Chinese history shows a pre-occupation with ivory over the centuries, leading to the decimation of elephant and rhino populations in Asia.
Mid last year, three tonnes of Ivory were discovered in a warehouse in Mombasa, just a few weeks after another consignment destined for China through the Mombasa port was detained.
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In September 2014, another haul involving 219 elephant tusks was impounded while in transit. In Narok the same month, scientists carrying out a wildlife census found the carcasses of 117 elephants. A report released by the International police (Interpol) last year revealed that over 13 tonnes of ivory was impounded.
In November 2013, China’s presidential jet was used to transport a huge consignment of ivory from Tanzania. This sent the wrong signals that the Chinese government actually encouraged poaching in Africa. However, the latest move, which has seen President XI- Jinping personally reassert his country’s determination to impose a ban on Ivory, might serve to reassure African states that the elephant might at last be saved from extinction.
Saving the endangered elephant and rhino species calls for concerted efforts by all countries that support the new measures. The United States has passed legislation in some states that make it an offence to engage in the sale of ivory products. African countries where poaching is intense must also ban such trade, besides imposing heavy fines on people found to engage in poaching.
Countries like Zambia, India and Zimbabwe have instituted extreme measures to protect the endangered species where rangers have been given authority to use their discretion while engaging poachers.
In Kenya, the government has in the past outlined measures to contain poaching but they are yet to bear fruit. Regional anti-poaching enforcement strategies must be standardised and followed through by the concerned governments to deter would-be culprits.
Because Kenya has played a vital role in ending ivory trade since 1989 when retired President Moi publicly burned 12 tonnes of Ivory and President Kenyatta later destroyed 15 tonnes of ivory in March this year, it must join hands with other interested parties to totally put an end to trade in ivory and rhinoceros horns. The good relationship between Kenya, China and the United States must be put to good use in ending poaching.