Correction: The original headline for this article stated that Kenya implemented the death penalty for rhino poachers. However, an AFP article recently came to our attention which stated that the Xinhua news agency made a mistake in its report last year that the tourism and wildlife minister of Kenya had announced plans to introduce the death penalty measures for wildlife poachers.
It appears that the minister was not at the meeting Xinhua reported on. While there was a statement read on his behalf by a colleague, he has told AFP that “nothing I spoke on behalf of the minister was related to the death penalty for poachers”. He also told the AFP that “I think in that meeting one of the local leaders casually said that poachers should be killed but nothing official came from the ministry”
The local leader did have good reason to be frustrated, as poachers continue to ignore local laws and hunt on wildlife reserves, oftentimes killing endangered animals for trophies.
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.
The original story regarding the alleged death penalty for poachers was shared widely by numerous mainstream sources, including The Independent. Officials in Kenya are working hard on passing stricter penalties against poachers, but no mention of the death penalty has been made officially.
“I have been pushing for harsher punishment because what we currently have does not add up at all. A kilo of ivory costs about $60,000 and the fine for a poacher who caught many kilos of ivory is only about $199,000. If you compare this, it seems to be a mere slap on the wrist. But this does not mean death penalty — that, I assure you, was taken out of context. We can have the fines increased, longer jail terms and ensure that the poachers do not easily get away by paying fines,” the tourism minister told the AFP.
It seems likely that a local official at the meeting made a hyperbolic comment in frustration, and that comment must have been misinterpreted by foreign reporters who assumed that it was an official policy.
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