Wildlife poachers are posing an increasing threat to endangered species, as hunters are moving into wildlife preserves in search of high-value animals. To fight back against the poachers, Kenya has taken the measure of implementing the death penalty for anyone caught hunting endangered animals in these areas.
Najib Balala, the country’s tourism and wildlife minister, says that the high fines that were imposed on poachers in the past were not an adequate deterrent.
“We have in place the Wildlife Conservation Act that was enacted in 2013 and which fetches offenders a life sentence or a fine of US$200,000. However, this has not been deterrence enough to curb poaching, hence the proposed stiffer sentence,” Balala said.
Last year, Balala fast-tracked the death penalty measure into law.
The ministry reported that there has been a significant reduction in rhino and elephant poaching in recent years.
“These efforts led to an 85 per cent reduction in rhino poaching and a 78 per cent reduction in elephant poaching, respectively, in 2017 compared to when poaching was at its peak in 2013 and 2012 respectively,” the ministry said.
Rhino horns can be sold for up to $100,000 per kilogram, which is just over two pounds. Considering that most of these horns weigh an average of two to seven pounds each, a poacher could make anywhere between $300,000 and $7,000 off of a single rhino horn.
However, these high prices are unique to specific areas in Asia where some cultures believe that horns and tusks of certain animals have important medicinal qualities. On the black market in South Africa, these horns fetch a much lower price, typically around $3,000 per pound.
Months after the law was announced, three poachers were killed and two others injured in a gun battle with rangers at a Kenyan wildlife reserve.
Trans Nzoia county police commander Samson ole Kine told Nairobi-based newspaper The Standard that, “KWS officers were on patrol inside the park when they spotted the poachers. A fierce shoot-out ensued and three of the poachers were gunned down while two others escaped. AK-47 rifles were recovered. More officers have been deployed to conduct regular security patrols at the park and ensure wildlife is protected from the poachers. urge communities around the park to report people they suspect to be on a poaching mission.”
Search teams are now in the skies in airplanes and on the ground in large numbers with high-tech gear.
In 2017, 69 elephants and nine rhinos were killed in Kenya, but this is a significant reduction from previous years.
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