By LONAH KIBET
KENYA: Environment Cabinet Secretary Judy Wakhungu has said the Government will enact stiffer penalties to protect wildlife.
Wakhungu said penalties on crimes related to wildlife have been in cooperated in a new law that is aimed at deterring poaching.
The Wildlife Bill to be introduced in Parliament soon proposes a fine of up to Sh5 million and 15 years in jail for offenders. “We will provide all the necessary support to Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and other law enforcement agencies to stop poaching of elephants and illegal trade in ivory,” Wakhungu said during a press briefing in Nairobi.
She noted that following the gradual increase in poaching, the Government has directed all cases related to the offence to be prosecuted as economic crimes.
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“Alarmingly, 384 elephants were poached last year compared to 278 and 177 in 2012 and 2011 respectively,” she said. KWS director William Kiprono revealed that 183 elephants had been killed as of yesterday morning.
She said canine units with sniffer dogs operating at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Moi International Airport in Mombasa to detect movement of illegal ivory have so far netted more than eight tonnes of ivory.
KWS plans to introduce sniffer dogs at Eldoret International Airport and other entry and exit points.
Wildlife Direct (WLD) has warned that increased poaching could lead to extinction of elephants in the next decade.
WLD CEO Paula Kahumbi said elephant population in the country has drastically dropped to between 30,000 and 38,000.
Ms Kahumbi revealed that last year alone, approximately 30,000 elephants had been poached in Africa.
The number of the herds in the African continent has drastically dropped from 1.2 million in 1979 to 300,000 over the years mainly due to poaching, loss of habitat and human conflict.
Kenya Airways CEO Titus Naikuni assured the airline will not condone delivery of poached goods across the borders and that any of his staff who will be found doing the contrary will be dealt with appropriately. WLD is running campaign dubbed “Hands Off Elephants”.