News has come in overnight from Kenya, where – as in many other African countries – poaching is again on the increase. In the dense forests of Mt. Kenya National Park, but even outside the official park boundaries, elephant have for times immemorial migrated through established ‘corridors’ to follow available food, although human population growth makes the ‘long migrations’ between Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare Mountains, or further up North through Samburu as far as Marsabit, ever more difficult now.
NGO’s dedicated to the protection of the elephant, and keen to study their now much restricted migration patterns, had last year fitted as many as 7 animals in the Mt. Kenya area with collars, to allow researchers gather data and increase the knowledge of where the elephant go, and when.
News therefore that the collared animals are now specifically targeted by poachers came as a shock to the conservation fraternity in Kenya and beyond, and it was confirmed yesterday that 4 out of the 7 are now dead. Reports from sources closely involved in the park and its protection have also confirmed that snares and traps are now common in the dense forests, where even well trained KWS rangers and wardens patrolling the park are finding it difficult to hunt down poachers.
Besides the loss of the animals, the loss of the expensive collars and subsequent loss of data collection is hurting conservation efforts and suspicion has grown that the targeted elimination of collared animals is only the tip of the iceberg, undertaken to conceal to the ‘watchers’ the true extent of poaching presently underway.
Efforts are being made to fit more elephant with electronic tags which can be monitored through satellite
GPS but for now all hands are on deck to determine how best to bring the poachers to book and stop the killings. Every source contacted in Kenya has also pointed fingers to the rocketing demand for blood ivory from China, and blamed the Chinese government for failing the international conservation community by sitting on their hands instead of introducing legislation with stiff fines and long prison terms for anyone found in the possession of ivory, processing ivory and illegally smuggling ivory into the country. That however, as and when the Chinese government yields to growing pressure and finally faces up to their international responsibilities, needs to be accompanied by making possession of ivory a social ill, unacceptable by the population and as shunned as wearing a coat made of Panda skins, something surely the Chinese will understand.
Meanwhile though are KWS and other Kenyan security organs faced with containing the gangs of poachers and eliminating them, lest the wildlife based tourism industry should suffer lasting damage, from loss of animals and the loss of reputation.
Compiled by Jackie